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J. S. Gashing Go. — Berwick & Smith Go. 

Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 














These essays, with the exceptions of Chap- 
ters III and IV, were not originally designed 
to form chapters of a book. Chapter I is an 
address given before the New York State 
Conference of Religion. Chapters II and V 
were published in the Harvard Theological 
Review, by the courtesy of whose editors they 
are used here. The unity of theme and treat- 
ment, we believe, does not suffer from this 
undesigned assembling; and there is a gain 
in concreteness by reason of the fact that 
each chapter was intended to stand in its own 
right. Certain repetitions were almost inev- 
itable, but all of the discussions have been 
revised to make the argument as concise as 
seemed consistent with its pedagogical pur- 
pose. The last chapter is a sermon preached 
to students ; and as a " laboratory " example 
of the theological method advocated will be 
more effective than a theoretical discussion 


of the subject. I make grateful acknowledg- 
ment here to many whose writings have 
helped me, from a number of whom I have 
quoted without specific acknowledgment. 


Auburn, N.Y., 

January i, 1914. 



Introduction i 


I. The Enlarging Conception of God . . 22 
Our best conception of a living God must root 
in contemporary thought and morality. 

II. The Problem of Theological Method . 48 
The Fundamental contrast between Tradi- 
tional and Modern Theological method. 

III. The Justification of the Method . . 76 

An examination of the laws of language, 
thought, and personality, in their bearing upon 
the problem. 

IV. The Consequences of the Method . . 102 

The altered view of Creeds, the Bible, and of 

V. The Peril of a Safe Theology . . .149 
The Principle of guaranteed security a menace 
to the higher life of the Spirit. 

VI. The Truth about God: The Man Christ 

Jesus 169 

The Human approach to the Divine. 

Bibliography 197 



Of all the forms of human hunger, none 
are more persistent and universal than the 
himger for the spiritual. "Man's search 
for God is as plain a fact as his search 
for food/' To one who sympathetically 
traces in history this spiritual search, the 
pathos, the greatness, the sacredness of the 
quest for religious reality is awesome. No 
famine has ever starved and devastated like 
spiritual famine. On the other hand the 
great, courageous, conquering spirits of 
earth have been those who have gone forth 
"in the power of the spirit.'* Spiritual 
religion has been the energy of all great 
achievement. The motive and the leader- 
ship of all human progress have been 
supplied by men and women who, like 
Jesus, have had meat to eat which their 
followers knew not of. 


The constimmate significance of religion 
and the significance of those who labour for 
its direction is partly lost upon us both by- 
reason of the very universality of religion 
and by the almost infinite variety of religious 
phenomena. The dissipation of the sense 
of the worth of religion by the disturbing 
sense of the trivialities and the petty dif- 
ferentiations of religions is a peril that be- 
sets us all. The very unity and majesty 
of God is lost in the multiplicity of the 
forms of His revelation. The very hunger 
is overlooked in the curious contemplation 
of the grotesque and baffling forms in which 
men seek to satisfy the appetite for the 
eternal. While the attempts which we 
have made, ecclesiastical and theological, to 
-^ make God concrete and distinctive and thus 
rescue Him from generalities and abstrac- 
tions by identifying Him with otu- special 
communion or creed or dogma, — these at- 
tempts have produced in our day a haunting 
scepticism which threatens to be the un- 
doing of the conviction which such efforts 
aim to establish. 

In this practical dilenmia, facing the 
choice of God as a transcendental, un- 


thinkable abstraction on the one hand, 
and the petty orthodox God of a sect on i 
the other, the temptation has been to give 
up the task of achieving a rational religion. 
Not a few have noisily avowed their loyalty 
to religion and their scorn for all theological 
attempts. But this emancipation is stire 
to prove premattire. The religious hunger 
continues to cry out for spiritual food. 
Enlightened religion cannot be formless. 
An utterly unintelligible God is no God at 
all. The religious satisfaction of an intelli- • 
gent man demands such thoughts about 
God and spiritual reality as will harmonize 
with his rational and ethical outlook on 
life. The rebellion is really against certain 
types of religious conception, not against 
religious interpretation as such. Theology 
is a permanent task. 

The characteristic religious phenomena 
of our own day witness clearly both to 
the religious hunger and to our confusion in 
handling the problem. We are fumbling 
for organizing principles and for crys- 
tallizing forms of activity which shall 
satisfyingly express religious reality for 
thought and life. Rationalisms and mys- 


ticisms and rituals which have satisfied cer- 
tain temperaments and certain ages do 
not wholly fathom our need. The modem 
** psychologizing " habit of thought has con- 
tributed a better analysis of the religious 
problem, but the positive contribution 
of psychologies of religion has been over- 
rated. At all events we are left groping 
for a method of presenting spiritual truth 
which shall be both convincing and nourish- 
ing. * The critical problem for the religious 
preacher and teacher to-day is the problem 
of method in thinking or interpreting 
religious truth so that the heart shall be 
satisfied without scandalizing the mind; 
and the mind shall be satisfied without 
starving the heart.^ 

This statement might seem a sufficient 
justification for offering a volume of essays 
on constructive theological method. But 
the timeliness of the attempt is only the 
more apparent when the characteristics 
of our age are noted more in detail. For 
example, certain currents set strongly 
against the undertaking to rethink the 
great religious problems of life. With the 
din of the "practical" sotmding in one's 


ears, the importance of systematic thinking 
about spiritual values is likely to be over- 
looked. This is a practical age. We 
want results. We are impatient with the 
man who cannot ''deliver the goods." 
Moreover, we require an early delivery; 
else we change our patronage to the man 
who guarantees a rush order. This mood 
has affected every district of life. 

Now the soundness of this cotmsel of 
the practical cannot be questioned; but 
its precise significance and its point of 
application may be unclear. The short- 
sightedness of an overdone principle of 
the practical, when applied to human 
values, is apparent. In our educational 
methods dealing with ethical and spiritual 
forces, it is easy to make practical re- 
quirements that stifle and deaden the finest 
and highest things. Manifestly that is 
practical which in the long run administers 
to the highest and finest forms of personal 
life. That is most efficient which in the 
long run ** delivers the goods"; but there 
is room for inquiry as to the nature of the 
"goods" to be delivered, and also as to 
the time and place of the delivery. For 


example, to meastire public school efficiency 
in terms of " the earning capacity of the child 
during the first ten years after graduation " 
is a degrading conception of education. 
The "vocational" measure of education 
is likely to be peculiarly oblivious to this 

Our immediate concern is with the larger 
ministry of the church. A rather confused 
and crass sense of need of a practical minis- 
try to the people is demanding a type of 
preacher who can ''produce results." Fre- 
quently the size of the result demanded is 
in inverse ratio to its quality. Many of 
the evangelistic campaigns are concessions 
to this utilitarian demand for a man who 
can "deliver the goods." The rise of the 
business manager tjrpe of preacher i' 
another evidence of the concession. On' 
a thoughtful analysis of the results thi 
attained will answer this practical spir 
according to its folly. "Big business" ? 
spiritual culture must not be cordw 
they have different aims and ideals, 
must pursue different methods. 

Ultimately this counsel of the pra< 
comes back to the training instit' 


which prepare young men for the ministry. 
It is seen first of all in the rise of a number 
of "training schools" which offer short 
cuts to the ministry in terms of an equip- 
ment, which will fit, like armour, upon every 
student, whatever his spiritual and intellec- 
tual calibre. '* Practical workers" are thus 
produced with no capacity to understand 
or direct the deeper forces of spiritual 
ministry. The results here are often 
lamentable in the character of the minis- 
ter thus sent out to do the ''work of the 

But even in the best equipped schools of 
theological preparation, aiming at thorough- 
ness and completeness, the demand for 
practical men and for practical training 
comes rolling in from the churches, and 
must be dealt with. It is largely a valid 
demand and has called forth cordial re- 
sponse. The more alert and aggressive 
institutions are heeding the demand by 
reconstructed cotu^ses of study and peda- 
gogical methods abreast with the best 
education of the times. The readjust- 
ment to the sensitively felt need has been 
truly remarkable, and furnishes a fascinat- 



ing chapter in the annals of religious educa- 

Still under the stress of the church's de- 
mand for practical men and for urgently 
needed results, the tendency is for the finer 
issues of spiritual meaning and the subtler 
forces of spiritual ministry to become ob- 
scured by the palpable appeal of immediate 
efficiency. Within a divinity school offer- 
ing the best educational facilities cal- 
culated to equip a man for religious ministry 
to society, the atmosphere of the practical 
descends about the student, creating a 
mirage — a reversal of values — that may 
measurably defeat the higher ends of edu- 
cation. The student of the Bible is tempted 
to let the most effective mode of using 
the Bible supersede the honest search for 
the accotmt of religious truth that is 
therein. For should not Bible interpre- 
tation ftmction with the public demand? 
Homiletics has its great reward for the 
preacher who would make a ** strong im- 
pression" upon the pastorless church. 
Apologetics easily becomes a lawyer's search 
for ** exceptions," or a form of special plead- 
ing. Systematic theology is expected to 


help the student gradtiate to pass the 
examination for conference, presbytery, or 
classis; hence fundamental principles are 
sometimes obsctired by the stress of local 
doctrinal issues. Sociologies are studied for a- 
panaceas rather than for principles. And 
even chtu^ch history may trace the move- 
ments of its own denomination on a map 
of larger scale than that of the rest of the 
Christian world. For every man can use 
these special products to bring results. He 
is asked to deliver the goods, and he lays 
up the brand that will be called for. Hap- 
hazard methods of theological thinking 
are apt to be formed by the student who 
breathes this atmosphere of efficiency. 

Scholarship, in the best sense of the word, 
must struggle for supremacy not only with 
the student but with the teacher. The con- 
servative method tends to hold the field be- 
cause it functions with the social conscious- 
ness of the majority, and therefore ** pro- 
duces results." The progressive method 
may not so ftmction with its environ- 
ment and hence may not produce the same 
sense of efficiency. The beaten paths offer 
least resistance and call for less original 



pedagogical skill. ^ The authority of the 
practical is distinctly encotiraging to the 
teacher who is content to potir his wine 
into the waiting *'old bottles." And the 
demand of the practical, on the other hand, 
is distinctly discotiraging to the gratuitous 
task of supplying new bottles in addition 
to filling them. Thus the condition im- 
posed of producing results in the realm of 
religious teaching, tends to encourage the 
popular, the superficial, the traditional. 
To galvanize an old conception into life 
is a pedagogical feat which wins more 
applause than a reconstruction of the con- 
ception. It runs less risk of ''overturning 
faith," of alienating the constituency, and 
is therefore the economical and fniitful 
mode of procedure. The inevitable out- 
come is the "mediating" theologian with 
a compromise. 

But when we think the matter through 
on large lines and construe the practical 
in terms of wider horizons, the pettiness 
and shortsightedness of much of the practi- 
cal plea appears. The stimulus of original 
thinking, great conceptions of life and its 
meaning, as a practical dynamic in pro- 



ducing effective men, is too much discounted 
in the utilitarian pressure of to-day. - Short 
cuts and training for immediate results do 
not encotu^age the profound thinking that 
arouses men to heroism for the sake of 
'* far-off " divine events, or for the sake of 
''tmseen things" which are eternal. The 
mark of great religious interpretation has 
always been the ability to see life in its 
cosmic significance. The thoughts and 
convictions that nourish great living still 
"lay hold upon eternal life." Life must be 
seen with wide horizons — with backgrotmd 
and foreground and sky. Without this 
setting, it shrivels into petty secularism. 

Nevertheless there is a lingering super- 
stition that strenuous thinking is a menace 
to the profoundest experiences of religion. 
The highest fniits of religious living are 
supposed to be unattainable by the tjrpe 
of mind which is eager to grasp the scientific 
and scholarly account of the religious life. 
This attitude tacitly puts a premium upon 
superstition and ignorance in the name of 
piety. The truth that religion has redemp- /^ 
tive power for the humblest and most il- 
literate is sometimes distorted to allege that 



an illiterate religion is a mark of exceptional 
piety and spiritual power. But ignorance 
has no monopoly of spiritual vision and 
power. A distinguished pastor, leaving his 
field to teach theological students, ex- 
pressed to his own congregation the nature 
and power of his new call in significant 
language: ''We have gone in these days 
so far after the fashion of the' gospel for 
the simple and ignorant, that we have come 
nigh to the state of things where only 
the ignorant can take any pleasure in the 
gospel which they sometimes hear. The 
neglected, and if I may use the detestable 
phrase, *unchtu-ched' class, is very apt to 
be to-day the cultivated and thoughtful 
class, the intellectually and morally rich." 
This severe arraignment of the state of 
religious interpretation seems to us to find 
justification in many instances. The riches 
of spiritual experience are too often ex- 
hibited as the fruits of forms of belief which 
do not hold our convictions. Liberal spirits 
are often made to feel that the realization 
of their highest spiritual longings are some- 
how conditioned upon the acceptance of 
forms of religious belief against which they 


are in rational rebellion. Behind the essays 
of this book there is a sense of responsibility 
to spiritual friends who are not ''fed" by 
any shepherds ; — a longing to minister to 
needy and hungry souls whose education 
and culttu'e make a too "popular" gospel 
an offence to both mind and heart. And 
particularly are we ambitious to administer 
to a multitude of awakening student-spirits 
who are seeking to assimilate the age-old 
religious confidence to the scholarship ac- 
quired in colleges and tmiversities. 

The spirit of distrust which dreads the 
effect upon piety of thorough-going scholar- 
ship is fotmd even among theological stu- 
dents. Many a student shudders at the 
spiritual risk involved in the intellectual ap- 
proach to the Bible, to theology, and to the 
deep things of the soul. In the tmiversity, 
the spirit of fearless inquiry is exalted; 
but here he feels that the sacred things are 
to be shielded from the spirit of inquiry, 
the very spirit which he exalts in a univer- 
sity. The spiritual and the intellectual 
he is apt to regard as mutually alien. He 
leans toward tmdisciplined mysticism or 
toward traditional accotmts of the truth. I 


have seen men resist the analysis of the 
class-room on the plea that these things 
are to be ''accepted," and not inquired 
into. I have heard members of graduating 
classes thank God that they have been 
''kept" during the trying intellectual ex- 
periences of a course in theology, or per- 
haps deprecating that they had lost some 
very precious thing by reason of the in- 
tellectual discipline of the divinity school. 
Such soul tragedies, real or only appre- 
hended, are induced by a psychological 
attitude which at least does not see that 
there is an intellectual element in the 
highest tjrpe of piety. To love God with 
'^ the mind as well as the heart is a condition 
of stable Christianity. It is impossible to 
believe that prejudice and narrow conform- 
ity — taking too often the form of mental 
indolence and fanaticism — are more con- 
fident avenues of approach to the divine 
than the fine, open, eager spirit of intelligent 
inquiry. It is surely laid upon our divinity 
schools to remove the superstition that 
faithful intellectual work, whether in the 
name of Higher Criticism, New Theology, 
evolutionary principles, or any other buga- 


boo, is a menace to the soul. It is a duty 
indeed to show that a supreme service of 
these educational institutions is to teach the 
tmspeakable enrichment of religion which ^ 
intellectual faithfulness and thoroughness 
reveal. The spiritual security of alert, in- 
telligent piety is not inferior to the security 
of mentally passive piety. Neither is stren- 
uous Christianity always superior to medi- 
tative Christianity. 

In the last analysis the spiritual way to 
treat thought-problems is to think them ! 
The spirit of the Christian religion is essen- 
tially the spirit of truth ; and any false note 
which in its concern for the "spiritual," 
evades the task of truth, is to that extent 
an enemy of Christ. To blur intellectual 
distinctions is, in the end, to blur spiritual 
vision. Religion must be clear-eyed as well 
as pure of heart. Thus only does the disci- 
pline of theology stand the practical test 
of rendering the highest service to the spirit. 

Of course the kind of life that religious 
belief creates must be the ultimate judg- 
ment pronounced upon the truth of the 
religious philosophy involved. Creeds must 


be judged by the heroisms, the humanities, 
the service, the character, — in short the 
civilization they have produced. The 
Christian has always been known as a 
"believer," and *' tmbelief " has always been 
a sin and a term of reproach. Men of 
conviction, men of great beliefs, have been 
the real forces in all personal and social 
progress; hence the Christian church has 
been preeminent in supplying leadership 
for human progress. Thus the education 
of the beliefs of the church may be a task 
which contributes not less to personal 
efficiency and power than do the other 
more concrete aspects of training for re- 
ligious leadership. The call for ''practi- 
cal" training for religious leadership in the 
church is not a call to disregard constructive 
original thinking. No emphasis upon 
''doing things" can justify mental in- 
dolence or intellectual poverty. Even the 
shibboleth ''Social Christianity" is some- 
times made to conceal a shabby ideal of 
manhood. If efficiency of leadership de- 
pends ultimately upon men of conviction 
who have thought deeply upon the great 
religious problems of the race and who are 


thus able to educate the convictions of 
others, let us frankly encourage our divinity- 
schools to produce better thinkers. If the 
true dynamics of life are indeed in the con- 
victions and creeds that bum in men's 
hearts and impel them to their highest 
achievements, let us frankly admit that 
we are facing the problem of efficiency in 
dealing with the content of religion. If 
wrestling with the great thought-problems 
is a condition of the highest spiritual 
efficiency, let us seriously aim to produce 
better and more independent thinkers in 
our divinity schools ; men who are able to 
think things through to the ftmdamental 
moral issues on which the eternal right- 
eousness stands. Let us drop the false 
antithesis between practical and scholarly 
men. The dread of dogmatism and the 
other perils that beset men of passion and 
conviction can never justify us in offer- 
ing "trained" leaders instead of ''edu- 
cated" leaders. The popular demand of 
the churches should not blind religious 
educators to the need of the churches. The 
leadership most needed to-day is that of 
men with such a grip upon ftmdamental 



verities that they can see the problem of 
life whole ; men who shall be able to bring 
from within the regenerative forces to 
transform society, and not be mere masters 
of devices to stir men to shallow emotions 
or external reforms. Strenuous intellectual 
mastery seems to be the path to this higher 

That the experimental method but slowly 
displaces the old apriorism in theology is 
a matter of common observation. There 
is a great lack of directness and concreteness 
even in modernized statements of religious 
truth. Much theology requires us to toil 
laboriously arotmd motmtains that were 
long ago ttmnelled. In some cases a better 
faith has removed the motmtains them- 
selves. This clinging to primitive theologi- 
cal methods exhibits something of the 
mental habits which Gulliver observed in 
the tailors of Laputa. One of their peculi- 
arities, according to Swift, was that they 
measured no man directly for a suit of 
clothes, but employed a quadrant to get 
his altitude as though he were some distant 
astronomical body. Then they figured out 


the dimensions of his clothes by complex 
mathematical formiilae. One can imagine 
the fit produced by such a method ! 

The deviousness of much theological 
literature in treating religious problems as 
distant, *' heavenly" bodies, and the insist- 
ence upon traditional formulae, have not 
always resulted in a theological garment 
that covers our spiritual nakedness. It 
has resulted rather in a quaint fashion 
which distinguishes theological thinking 
from other forms of interpretation. Theol- ^ 
ogy must outgrow the suspicion of being 
an esoteric science prepared and preserved 
by a race of priests. If religion is to meet 
and solve the imrest of to-day, it must 
come with the simplicity and directness of 
all truth which has its authority and wit- 
ness within, — in the need and nature of 
our human. Theology as religious inter- 
pretation, thus becomes cognate with all of 
our accredited thinking about human reali- 

It is no academic motive that has pro- 
duced the following papers. Rather is it a 
profoundly religious motive which covets 
all of the insight of modem thinking and 


ctilttire for the service of the spiritual. 
Too often has it been observed that liberal 
thought and devout religion have been 
arrayed in opposing camps* The liberals 
have commonly shown little religious pas- 
sion, and the religious have shown too little 
liberalism of thought. Such a divorce is a 
scandal. It is not good for the one — or 
the other — to be alone. Liberalism in 
itself is no Gospel 1 It is only a husk ; and 
the Gospel is a kernel or content. On the 
other hand illiterate evangelism easily de- 
generates into an immoral superstition. 
The best thought and culture in the service 
of the heart-values, the character-forces 
and spiritual revelations of life, — this is 
the ideal of these essays. The writer is not 
straining after a ''new theology," but is 
striving after religious reality. He counts 
himself a passionate believer in the verities 
of evangelical religion, working with the 
conviction that theological explanation 
should be emancipated from paralyzing, 
out-worn traditions, and move confidently 
in terms of the noblest thinking and the 
deepest insights of contemporary life. 
The author's spiritual fellowship is with the 


faithftil army of preachers of Jesus Christ 
and his Gospel, at home and on the foreign 
field. A more heroic and uplifting service 
than that rendered by the Christian minis- 
try has never been witnessed. The hope of 
being able to offer help for the thought- 
problems of some of these labourers brings 
a thrill of satisfaction. If, in these dis- 
cussions, lapses are discernible from our 
avowed ideals both of breadth and of spiri- 
tuality, we still avow that this is no part 
of the tmderlying intention, but the expres- 
sion of the imperfect ''personal equation." 

The Enlarging Conception of God 

Religion as we know it is not some holy 
thing apart, let down out of heaven, which 
cannot be touched with human hands. 
It is a human product. It is holy in the 
degree that it is our highest human growth. 
^The process by which we grasp the fact 
of God in terms of our human, and interpret 
our htiman life in the conviction of the di- 
vine, is religion. It is a process which 
inevitably lays religion open to the limita- 
tions and the blunders of the experimental 
method, as well as to the triumphs of expe- 
rience. All of the ideals by which we are 
experimentally feeling our way to our best 
life will be reflected in our religion. Our 
sciences, philosophies, economics, social and 
industrial ideals, above all our moral history, 
will be registered in the advance or decline 
of our religious consciousness. 

Religion springs eternal in the heart, a 
germ not of our own planting. But human 



Ufe is the soil, climate, sunshine, and the 
ctilture which condition and direct its 
growth. Religion can be smothered, dis- 
torted into grotesque forms, controlled in 
formal gardens, or cultivated into luxuriant, 
life-nourishing growth. It is not a constant 
quantity ; but rather it responds sensitively 
to the God-conception within, and the con- 
ception of God, in turn, is shaped by life's 
ideals as they arise. Though the ideal of 
God reacts powerfully upon all of our con- 
trolling ideals, it is still true that the God 
whom we worship is conditioned and shaped 
by the ideals which outline and express our 
whole mental and spiritual outlook. 

This pragmatic shaping power of ours 
in the realm of religion is illustrated graph- 
ically in the history of the Christian church, 
where the conceptions reflected in many 
types of doctrinal explanation vary radi- 
cally, each typical doctrine being shaped 
by the ruling conceptions of the time. The 
progress of the history illustrates the ad- 
vancing stages of enUghtenment and cul- 
ture. The examination of this relative 
element is the gist of most modem historical 
and psychological emphasis in studying 


religion to-day. Why did people believe 
in certain religious ideals? What factors 
of life impelled them to this belief ? How 
shall we rationally evaluate the belief? 
This rational attitude toward the past is 
fast coming to the service of the present and 
the future. We have a deep concern to 
examine these relative forces that are shap- 
ing our God-consciousness, and to inquire 
into their effectiveness and validity. Do 
the life-forces which shaped the ideals of 
the past -still hold us ? Do the ideals which 
shape our God-idea function with the ideals 
that control men's thinking to-day? In a 
moving, changing world, the conservative 
attempt to hold over, in religion, conceptions 
that our times have left behind is paralyzing 
to religious vitality. The conception of 
God not only does, but must, reflect the 
ruling mental ideals of the times, if it is to 
feed heart-htmgry men. If the living con- 
victions of to-day do not find expression in 
the religion which we teach, if we never 
so earnestly endeavour to enforce ftmda- 
mental convictions in the form of mental 
conceptions that controlled another age 
and do not hold the best belief of our day, 


we shall bind the religious power that we 
long to emancipate. Says La Touche : ' ' The 
most disastrous thing that could come to the 
spiritual life of any age is that it should not 
be responsive to the thought of its age." 

Fruitful years of study, invention, discov- 1^ 
ery, and achievement have changed the face 
of the earth; have enlarged every sphere 
of life ; and have bound us all up in a newly 
discovered unity that means new power, 
new responsibility, new potentialities for the 
blessing or the cursing of human life. With 
this profound movement there has come a 
not less profound change of thought-habits 
in regarding the world. New ideals of 
thought have come into being, new methods 
of study unknown to our predecessors, a 
new mental attitude toward life. The 
scientific habit, the pragmatic test of truth, 
the practical estimate of life's values and 
meanings, the deepened social sense through 
which we see all moral significance, — these 
and other ideals have so shaped the thought 
and consciousness of our age that the 
modem man already finds it hard to grasp 
clearly and sympathetically the ideals that 
prevailed before science awoke. Most text- 


books written one hundred years ago seem 
written for some other world than ours, 
And they were ! 

The beneficence of this new and mighty 
thought-movement is no part of our prob- 
lem. From this enlarging life, with its 
essentially new ideals of thought and study 
and method and meaning in our mental 
approach to the world, what have been 
the consequences for religion? In this 
age, keyed as never before to the ideal of 
effectiveness, what about the problem of 
the religious effectiveness of the larger 
views ? Has the releasing of all this power, 
and all these ideals of method and mean- 
ing and worth fotmd effective recognition 
in the field of religion? Has religion, the 
most fundamental and potent force for 
blessing human life, kept pace with the 
growing life by which it is conditioned? 
Has religion translated its wealth of knowl- 
edge into power? 

It is not too much to say that there is 
maladjustment here which ought to re- 
ceive the attention of every religious 
teacher. There is non-effectiveness, a waste 
of power and of possibilities for human 


betterment such as may well grieve the 
sotil of the consecrated religious teacher, 
and stir him to alertness and reexamination 
of his pedagogical presuppositions. Not the 
least sin of the preacher may be that he 
does not discern the signs of his times, 
but is still thundering to his people con- 
cerning "the sign of the prophet Jonah." 
The real problem here is not whether 
Jonah ever lived and was swallowed by a 
fish. It is rather whether Jonah functions 
with our age. It is not primarily a ques- 
tion of historical veracity, but of pedagogi- 
cal propriety and religious effectiveness. 

This maladjustment and religious non- 
eflfectiveness is manifest at two points: 
first, in our reluctance to give our enlarging 
conceptions of life a place in our concep- 
tion of God ; second, in our failure to bring 
our enlarged conception of God into con- 
vincing, authoritative relations with life, 
and thus place it at the service of men. 


The first phase of the problem arises /. 
from our failure to admit into religious 
conceptions the wealth of insight that has 


been won in every other field of thought. 
The problem roots in the fact that we are 
controlled by a theory of knowledge in 
religion which forbids our opening up and 
enriching our thought of God. The way 
men have been accustomed to think about 
God is tmcriticaUy assumed to be not only 
the final accotmt, but also a chief con- 

-4 sideration in keeping Him steady ! Be- 
cause Abraham or Paul saw God clearly 
through windows of ancient architecture, 
we insist upon looking through their win- 
dows, whether or not we see the vision. 
We insist upon keeping our windows open 
toward Jerusalem, when they ought to 
open upon the life of to-day. This is a 
fatal mood for the man who wants to achieve 
effective spiritual leadership. However it 
may be accoimted for, there is in the Chris- 
tian church a strongly entrenched aver- 
sion to admitting new conceptions into 
theology. This is doubtless due partly 
to native conservatism in dealing with 
sacred facts; partly to an absolute and 

"^ static philosophy which contributed its 
spirit and method to most orthodox the- 
ology formulated in the Middle Ages. 


Theology, more than any other discipline, 
has disregarded the laws of living thought 
as rooted in the life of the present. ^ Too 
often theology, instead of being artictilated 
into life, has thought it sufficient to repeats 
the formulations of the past, to quote some 
sacred, infallible source, thus existing in a 
vacuum untouched and uninfluenced by 
the life of to-day. 

The penalty of this failure to think the 
living God in terms of the living concep- 
tions of to-day is unreality in religious 
language and anaemia in religious living. 
The penalty of leading a theological stu- 
dent to his God-idea through the stereo- 
typed doctrines and systems of a dead 
past is too often to leave him — by his 
own confession — ''without a message for 
the present.'' The only way to bring the 
Living God into the life of to-day is to 
obey the deep laws of life, and rehabilitate 
this August Reality whom men worship, 
in the thought-garments of to-day. The 
time-garments of no age are sacred above 
those of any other. The worth of all con- 
ceptions of God is in their power to make 
Him real to men. The prevailing method 


of theology not only involves a question- 
able theory of knowledge, but it makes 

-^ men feel that there was more of God in the 
past than in the present. This is tihe 
worst heresy ! 

The deplorable fact that the message 
of religion is failing to hold men has its 
explanation partly in the fact that religious 
teachers and preachers are largely engaged 

.^ in presenting God and his meaning in terms 
of outgrown conceptions. These concep- 
tions do not grip men and hence do not 
awaken and nourish the native religious 
imptilse. The God of doctrinal teaching 

'^ is not large enough to inspire our worship. 
The enlarging conceptions lie at hand, the 
thought-vehicles of our age. Our mes- 
sage, our meaning, our vision must be 
mediated in terms of these things, or we 
shall withhold the revelation of God from 
the life of to-day. If to-day's life is not v 
seen as God's — sub specie aeternitatis — 
it will be recorded as an appalling age of 
secularism ! God must be known to men ^ 
of to-day in terms of the thotight and life 
of to-day, or not at all. 
But, confessedly, the old rigidity is 


breaking up, and a better thought of God 
is dawning upon the world. The laws of 
valid and vital thinking are asserting them- 
selves, and through the visions of to-day's 
life men are catching glimpses of the 
Eternal at work, blessing the life of to-day. 
There is an enlarging conception of God. 

Still, the new vision is not definite and 
consistent. It is indistinct and confused. 
It is not yet at home in ovir consciousness. 
Men still look wistftilly toward the past ^ 
with its definite lines, its confident beliefs, 
its commanding authority. There were 
prophets in the past. There are so many 
confused voices in the present. We need 
translators of the visions of God, whose 
task it shall be to show convincingly that 
we are not called to follow new gods, but 
that the God of the past is the God of the ^ 
present; that we may think to-day's life 
in terms of his purpose and presence. This 
we must do without disturbing ovir reli- 
gious continuity with the past. In these 
changing times we need to teach men 
security and confidence in the enlarging 
conception of God which is dawning; to 
point out the familiar vision of the Eternal 


One, the Light of all our living, the Might 
of all our achieving. The twilight stage, 
the stage of distrust, of scepticism, of 
secularism, calls for leadership to point 
out the emerging form of the Divine. 
Leaders of religious thought have their 
opporttmity here to contribute to the 
problem of practical efficiency. The diffi- 
culty is largely a thought-difficulty. The 
remedy must be supplied by the thinkers. 


The other phase of the problem has to 
do not with the intellectual acceptance of 
the enlarging conception of God, but with 
a matter of equally portentous concern. 
As a mental concept, the enlarging thought 
is slowly compelling acceptance. The en- 
larging life and the ruling ideals and 
thought-habits of to-day are finding recog- 
nition in our ever broadening religious 
ideals. Preaching is increasingly character- 
ized by new breadth. But the new breadth 
is not always characterized by a new 
passion. Enlarging mental conceptions are 
^ compelling an enlarging conception of God ; 
but the newer thought of God is not yet 


completely at the service of the deeper, 
vital needs of life. We think a larger God,v^ 
but we do not realize his presence. We 
conceive Him; but we do not trust Him. 
Prayer has not kept pace with preaching. 
The newer ministry of the gospel of God 
is still conspicuously a ministry to intel- 
lectual peace. Just as the older thought 
of God does not ftmction with the intel- 
lecttial consciousness of to-day, so the 
newer, enlarging conception does not func- 
tion adequately with the moral consciousness 
and the deep religious need. It does not 
bring adequately the sense of the power of the 
Divine to the life of to-day. This dynamic 
problem of religion is not merely a matter 
of right mental adjustment. For religious 
ministry which deals only with the intel- 
lectual phase of the problem soon creates a 
religious aristocracy, an intellectual ex- 
clusiveness, out of which indeed much 
wisdom may emerge, but no creative power. 
A deeper problem than correct and true 
conceptions of God is the problem of so 
clothing this new and better conception 
with power, and so endowing it with life, 
that the conception shall mediate to us 


the Divine Reality, the Living God. 
Scholarship has an obligation here beyond 
the formulations of the enlarging concep- 
tion. Noblesse oblige. We must put the 
conception at the service of life. We 
must help men to a deeper realization of 
the presence of God. 

The reality of God as power and activity 
is the conviction that must lay hold of 
society before religion can gain its august 
and absolute authority over life. In a 
time of radical readjustment of religious 
conceptions, the danger is that we shaU 
lose the power of the old, and find no cor- 
responding power in the new. This is 
precisely the religious malady of to-day. 
We have enlarging conceptions of God. 
But the confidence, the security, the as- 
surance of God as a Great Companion 
and Helper and Co-worker, — this phase 
of living, commanding religion has not kept 
pace with our better thought. In the last 
analysis, I believe that this is the menace 
to the higher life of society. Better con- 
ceptions of God cannot take the place of 
the realization of the present power of 


Moreover, I am a modem man in a 
modem world. It seems to me to be the 
first duty of optimistic thought to seek for 
present help in the life of the present. I 
distrust the mode of piety which always^" 
turns to a sacred past to find how near God 
comes to men. A vital problem for me 
is " Does God come to human life now ? — 
and How?" There are saints a plenty 
who can find God in the Old Testament,^ 
and sages who can find God in the Greek 
lyrics, who have little sense of the presence 
of God in modem life. That is a danger- 
ous heresy of the religious Ufe, — to trace 
God's presence and purpose in another age, 
and not be confident of his presence and 
out-working purposes in the life of our own 
day ! 

For centuries our moral and religious 
convictions have grown with tendril and 
root about an tmscientific world-view. 
Thought-habits have impelled us to seek 
the credentials of divinity in certain def- 
inite tokens. These tokens are largely 
discredited by modem thinking. And the 
result is confusion, lack of confidence, a 
weakened hold on the divine. The power 


of the Infinite is no longer at the service of 
our human endeavour. Intelligent leaders 
can no longer give unquestioning credence 
to the old, and they have not yet learned 
to trust the new implicitly. The amphib- 
ious preacher — breathing both the old 
atmosphere and the new, influenced both 
by fable and by science — does not nourish 
a robust spiritual life for himself, and is 
likely to guide his people only to an anaemic 
spiritual existence. The crying problem 
here is created by maladjustment to the 
enlarging conception of God. 

As a first principle of solution, we may 
point out that just as the religion of the 
past found its spiritual certitudes, its re- 
ligious realities, in terms of the life and 
thought that it knew, so must we seek in 
i the forms of to-day's life for the credentials 
of the Divine, for the assurance of God. 
The virility of all religion is in the degree 
of its assimilation to the ideals and con- 
ditions of its times. If God spoke con- 
vincingly to a past civilization in terms of 
myth and fable congenial to that age. He 
will not fail to speak to us in terms of our 
ruling convictions of process and law which 


have driven out the age of myths and super- 
stitions. That these older forms of 
thought are but imperfectly atrophied is 
evident by the pagan proofs still offered of ^ 
the deeds of God in the world. The phys- 
ical miracle, the visible wonder, the ca- 
pricious, the arbitrary, and the tmusual are 
still offered as the supreme evidence of the 
divine activity. So true is this that the 
word "supematuralism" has come to desig- 
nate technically the type of thought which 
separates God from the world, and makes 
the token of his presence a miraculous 
occurrence. This type of explanation has 
shaped almost every traditional account 
of doctrine. The most cherished portions 
of our sacred books are those which speak 
of miraculous deeds, occurrences, expe- 
riences, — for these seem to us most cer- 
tainly the credentials of the divine. Alas, 
we do not read the signs of the times. WeV 
still demand non-spiritual proofs of spiritual) 
reality. Now these tokens do not ftmction 
with our enlarging ideals of truth, our 
enlarging conceptions of a spiritual God. 
Supematuralism, as the designation of the 
divine power and presence in the human, 



we must indeed hold, or we emasculate 
religion and make it a by-word. But the 
reality of the supernatural activity, whether 
in the psychological or the social realm, 
or in the field of natural law, must not find 
its chief evidence in the miracle. We must 
not ask people to ''tirni aside'' to witness 
'^burning bushes in order to convince them 
that they are on holy ground. The pres- 
ence of God and the sacredness of life must 
be demonstrated to men in terms of to-day's 

The philosophic mood which could con- 
ceive God best as transcendent, has given 
way to a mood which demands the vision 
of his immanence. Is it not within the 
power of our current convictions of the 
nature of reality to disclose God as a Living 
Fact? Is not our best thought our best 
instrument? Is scientific thought to be 
regarded as an enemy and not an ally of 
religious faith? It is, indeed, "becoming 
increasingly hard to believe in the miracle," 
and the evidence for to-day must ftmction 
with the convictions of the men of to-day. 
An age trained on the one hand to seek for 
the manifestation of the divine in "super- 


natural" tokens, and trained on the other 
to believe that law and order express the 
deepest nature of the world, stands con- 
fused before the religious problem of evi- 
dence. It is a pedagogical inconsistency, 
a rational blunder. The consequences are 
disastrous for those hearts which affirm 
the supernatural and crave the Divine, 
but whose tmderstanding can make no 
place for the traditional accotmt of the 
supernatural. The earnest thinkers of to- 
day are not atheists; they are believers 
in a great God. They are believing prot- 1^ 
estants against outgrown conceptions of 

Process, law, righteousness, tmselfish, lov- 
ing service of fellow-men, — these are things 
which hold men's minds, the things in 
terms of which their deepest convictions 
of life are being shaped. Then surely 
the prophet of God must find the evidences 
of the supernatural in these things, and 
be able to convince the people of to-day 
that the Infinite touches our finite life in 
these things. Religious certainty, religious 
reality, must be found in the things we are 
doing. If we cannot convincingly show 



God at work in the life of society, then 
no volumes of "supernatural evidences" 
out of the past can create religious real- 
ity. Such is the concrete demand of the 
scientific habit of mind. It is a right de- 

To put this criticism and coimsel in 
concrete terms, let us frankly say that we 
fail to moralize our theological thinking 
to keep pace with our best moral conscious- 
ness. When we talk to men about God, 
and do not speak to the deepest moral 
realities that possess the men of our day, 
can we speak with authority to our age? 
Will not thoughtful men say that we do 
not play the rules of the game in theological 
thinking ? ^ 

For these elemental moral realities know 
nothing of cheap absolutions, of divine 
interventions in the moral process, of mirac- 
ulous provisions to save men from conse- 
quences. Every system of spiritual '4n- 
dulgences" is ethically and rationally 
vicious, and betrays the presence of me- 
chanical thinking in religion. *' Whatso- 
ever a man soweth, that shall he also reap " 
is a ftmdamental certitude, the condition 


of awakening the consciousness of sin. No 
doctrine of God must tamper with that 
elemental moral conviction, but only in- 
terpret it. The habit of law, firmly fixed 
in the consciousness of to-day, is our ally 
and instrument to rebuke sin and establish 
righteousness. Men are not easily per- 
suaded by religious doctrines which speak 
of a deity who transcends the moral law, 
or who abrogates it to save men from the 
consequences of their transgressions of law, 
or to lift them up to heavenly places. We 
know no God great enough to save men by 
a higher law than that of righteousness; 
men must be saved morally or not at all. 
God conceived in terms of this deep moral 
reality will speak with all of the authority 
of the divine to men. Men believe when 
we teach faithfully that the wages of sin 
is death, and that the wages will be promptly 
paid on pay-day. They believe when right- 
eousness and love and service are worn as 
the badge of religion, and when they are 
taught to see in these things the deepest 
truths about God. For vital religion is a^ 
matter of ethics, and not etiquette, before 
God. If our religious doctrines can be 


reintetpreted to make place for these moral 
realities, the consciousness of God will live 
again in the moral passion, and the old 
assurance of the divine presence will blaze 
forth with conquering might. 

On the other hand, to dally with our best 
moral convictions, and to teach anything 
less than our best ethical insight dictates, 
is to trifle with the laws of religion. The 
passion for truth must control in theology 
as much as in any science. We preach 

^ God not as an almighty solver of difficulties, 
but because we believe He is the great 
Fact. We preach salvation not to salve 
men's consciences, but because love and 
righteousness are the only solvent of the 
problem of sin. We preach immortality, 
not as '*dope," an anaesthetic that will 

^ enable us to comfort the sorrowing and the , 
dying, but as the truth about the enduring 
nature of spiritual reality. Out of the 
depths of moral experience we must find 
the interpretation of religion which will 
bring the consciousness of God home with 
authority to the life of to-day. The en- 
larging conception must be moralized to 
keep pace with our best moral realities. 


if we wotild solve the problem of religious 
effectiveness by revealing the Living God. 
Thus the newer sense of law has done 
something to tone up religious thinking 
and lead it to deeper visions. The static 
attitude in theology, insisting that the old 
order is good enough, is giving way to a 
progressive insight which interprets God 
and his relationship to life in harmony 
with the moral realities which are con- 
vincing to the social consciousness of to- 
day. ''The new righteousness," "social 
justice," ''civic conscience," — these are 
modem terms pregnant with revealing 
power, and symptomatic of our enlarging 
moral vision. The sense of law is leading 
us to see that righteousness is neither ai/ 
capricious affair, nor a by-product of the 
world. It cannot be "imputed" by any 
juggling with logic. It must be achieved, 
not bestowed. The ethical is not an • 
optional department of life ; it is a quality 
of all personal life. "Morality is not im 
the nature of things; it is the nature of 
things." The moral law is a cosmic law,^ 
tmderlying all life and law. And the path 
to religious reality is the path of moral 



fidelity and obedience. The awakening of 
the moral passion is the condition of the 
vision that shall see God face to face. ' 

That this is no academic problem, a 
sympathetic knowledge of our times must 
surely convince us. A diagnosis of the 
present situation reveals a widespread 
paralysis or inertness in religious life as it 
touches social problems. There are pro- 
fotmd social movements, not without some 
moral purpose, which yet have not the 
powerful impulse of religious conviction 
behind them. There are industrial and 
economic developments which await the 
direction of higher meanings, which only 
religion can bring. Spiritual ministry to 
human need was never so magnificently 
organized as at present; but it awaits a 
dynamic passion, an inspiration commen- 
surate with the task. Leadership of moral 
reform does not have the courage and 
majesty that come with the consciousness 
of '* walking with the Ahnighty." The 
ethical has in too many instances descended 
to the plane of dull duty-doing, a ''cold, 
hard moralism." Life itself, too often, has 
no outlook, no majestic setting, no com- 


prehensive unity and goal great enough to 
lift it out of the commonplace, or even 
out of despair. • The temporal has crowded 
out the sense of the eternal. The blight 
of secularism is upon our splendid modem 
life. Life is held too cheap. There are 
no inspirations large enough to fill life and 
labour with enthusiasm, zest, and power. 
The people are not working with a song, 
but with a sigh ; not with praise, but with 
a protest. Life is not regarded as oppor- 
tunity, but as something to be spent. 
Optimism, the mood that controls when>- 
men feel that the world is good at its centre, 
and that it is all pledged to the service of 
the human, — this fotmtain of abotmding 
life has failed or nm low, sustaining only 
a meagre spiritual life. Certain social forces 
are gathering, sullen and sinister, which 
no superficial treatment can allay. 

The solution is the religious solution. 
God must be seen on the throne of the 
tmiverse. Life must be seen as a Cause 
large enough to challenge the conquering 
spirit. The laws of life must be seen, 
not as hostile or neutral, but as God's 
way to reach the highest goal. Duty 


must be interpreted as the will of the 
Living God. Work and service must be 
interpreted as the glory of God. Leader- 
ship must be able to cry, "Thus saith the 
Lord." The developments of modem life 
must be seen as the unfolding of the divine 
purpose. The moral and spiritual mean- 
ings of life must be felt in their sublimity, 
expressing the deepest law of the tmiverse. 
Our spiritual leadership, like all great 
leadership — the leadership of Abraham, of 
Isaiah, of Jesus — must be exercised under 
the eye of God. We must be original 
^ seers, and not second-hand scribes. God 
is not a great Concept; He is the Great 
Toiler. As men of action, our wills must 
find God as Will, as Co-worker, as Co-suf- 
ferer, as Sharer in human life and work. 
God can be known as Present Help. Spirit- 
ual religion brings distinction and glory 
and power, — in short, redemption, — to 
our finite life, by linking it all in conscious 
cooperation with the Infinite Sympathy. 

Our problem is, first, to teach an enlarging 
conception of God, helping people to con- 
ceive the divine in terms of the living ideals 
that control to-day's life ; second, to teach 


them to worship and pray, trusting life 
confidently to the Ancient of Days who 
manifested Himself in power in the faith 
of otir fathers. ^ The problem of religious 
effectiveness is ultimately that of establish- 
ing a warm, confident, living, strong re- 
lationship with the Author and Soul of 
all being, whose meaning and presence are 
found chiefly in the highest life of men. 
And the consequence will be that the age- 
less, quenchless truth of the inexhaustible 
divine will be at the service of the human, 
supplying us with the ideals, the courage, 
the companionship, and the power that we 
need to save life and bless it ; and lifting 
all human effort up to the most effective 
plane of inspiration and achievement. 

The Problem of Theological Method 

The ideal of religion majestically com- 
manding life and bringing every district 
of the human into loyal obedience to the 
divine is the ideal of every spiritual prophet, 
ancient or modem. We have shown that 
religion is relative to the regnant concep- 
tions of God ; hence better teaching about 
God is the condition of deepening the 
religious life. Our religious guides are 
the preachers and teachers who interpret 
spiritual reality to their age. And the 
conceptions of God and his relationship 
to us, in terms of which they speak, is 
theology. It does not augur well for the 
authority of religious teaching that the- 
ology and the theologians have fallen under 

The retirement of theology from its proud 
preeminence as ''Queen of all the sciences," 
to its present status as a discredited science, 
finds its explanation in the failure of the- 



ology to observe the laws of a living science. 
So long as religious doctrines were regarded 
as divine f ormtilae to be received on author- 
ity, the throne of theology was secure. 
But since the scientific habit has become 
general, the dogmatic method of inter- 
preting religious truth has lost its convinc- 
ing power. 

The present confusion in theology is due 
to the fact that the adjustment is far from 
complete or universal. The older ideals of 
religious interpretation are still current 
in large districts of life. On the other 
hand, an increasing number of leaders are 
endeavouring to interpret religion with the 
same freedom that prevails in the work of 
other sciences. Meanwhile the church as 
a whole is thrown into some confusion. 
With varying degrees of confidence the 
membership of the churches rally about 
the standards of the ''New" or the ''Old," 
with an indefinite idea of the real issue 
involved. And these divided camps are 
largely administered to by clerical teachers 
who offer a "mediating theology," or who 
avow that their emphasis is wholly religious 
and not theological ! These latter posi- 



tions are at best but a modus vivendi, and 
not a stable condition. It is evident that 
the critical problem of religious leadership 
has to do with the ideals and methods of 
religious interpretation. How shall we gain 
true and satisfying conceptions of God in 
his relationship to life? What are our 
tests of truth in the realm of religion? 
Doctrinal skirmishes and recriminations 
concerning *' radical" and "conservative" 
do not really touch the root of the matter. 
''To the thinking man a discord between 

--» methods is a graver matter than an opposi- 
tion between doctrines." If we are to 
understand the fundamental issues involved, 
we must understand the older ideal and the 
newer, the older and the newer method of 
thinking. With the object of clarifying 
principles and disclosing the nature of the 
theological Babel, we undertake to exhibit 
here the parallelism between traditional 
orthodoxy and modem theology, — using 
these latter terms not to designate an ar- 
bitrary classification of theologians, but 
the contrast of principles of method. 

^ The contrast throughout is founded upon 
the discord between the static conception 


of life and the world which prevailed until 
far into the nineteenth century, and an 
evolutionary or growing conception of life 
and the world which holds men's minds 
to-day and pervades every field of our 
thinking. The units of the older world of 
thought were conceived as fixed ''essence." 
The units of our modern thinking are elastic, 
growing things. For the technical student 
of thought it is doubtless sufficient to say 
that the difference that we are character- 
izing is the difference which the discovery 
of the evolutionary conception and its 
application to life has wrought. Darwin 
is the father of the discord. Profoundly 
interpreted, evolution is indeed the key to 
our problem; but not evolution as popu- 
larly conceived, nor evolution as an hy- 
pothesis of natural science, nor — least of 
all — as a philosophical dogma. Evolu- 
tion as a statement of that whole radical 
transformation of our method of thinking 
which marks the emergence of modem 
thought is indeed the key to our whole 
problem. But the term is likely to be 
only a verbal explanation, or to offer only 
a shallow interpretation. It is therefore 


necessary to characterize concretely the 
far-reaching implications of the evolution- 
ary method as a new insight into meaning, 
a new and pregnant principle with which 
thought operates in every realm. 

The key to the true understanding of the 
modem world of thought is in the hand of 
the man who has mastered the meaning 
of law, process, growth. In the field of 

^ natural science the biological method has 
yielded immense fruitage. The law of life 
is growth. Everything that lives, grows. 
In the field of organic life the application 
of the principle is fairly clear. We study 
a plant or a tree in terms of its law of de- 
velopment. Likewise with animal life, we 
are concerned with the laws of growth. 
This is perfectly clear when applied to the 
individual. But natural science has car- 
ried with fruitfulness the application of the 
principle of growth to the group of individ- 
uals. Our classifications into groups and 
species express not fixity, but development. 
In the inorganic world science is con- 
trolled by similar ideals. Geology dis- 

"^ covers that the earth itself has developed 
and is developing. Astronomy affirms not 


only a moving world, but age-long, advanc- 
ing processes everywhere. This is a grow- 
ing universe. The old rigidity and finality 
are dispelled. 

But the real significance of the newer 
insight is not seen until the genetic method 
is applied to the study of humanity. Man's ^ 
world is a growing thing ; and man himself, 
studied as an individual, in groups, or as a 
genus, expresses development and not fixity. 
Anthropology, psychology, sociology, all 1- 
deal with elastic, moving facts, not with 
static facts. And thus this principle of 
insight is brought to a man's moral world, 
his religious world, his rational world ; and 
under the scrutiny of this newer method it 
is all seen as a moving, advancing process. 
Religion, whether in the race or in the in- 
dividual, grows from the zero point to 
its best estate by a progressive process. 
The moral life awakens and grows from more 
to more. And even intelligence itself is 
everywhere an advancing fact, not a con- 
stant quantity. The effort to fix this 
complex, moving fact by a name, as ''hu- 
man nature," is delusive. We conceal the 
movement thus under a mental conception 


that seems to form a fixed point in the flux. 
The older, abstract units of thought, such 
as ''moral agent," ''responsibility," "free- 
dom," "reUgion," are all seen to have 
fluent rather than fixed meanings in their 
practical application. None of these 
things are constant, but growing quantities. 
We must learn to think not only a man's 
objective world, but also his subjective 
world, — his units of thought and the 
thinker himself, — as moving, growing 
facts, expressing a process proceeding by 
inviolable laws. 

Still the real significance for theology 
of this changed method is likely to be mis- 
apprehended. It is a shallow view which 
assumes that the real trouble with the evo- 
lutionary principle in theology is that it 
makes creation always a process as against 
the fiat-conception of Genesis. That 
science afiirms that worlds have been 
evolved, while the Bible says that God 
created them; or that science afiirms the 
evolution of man, while Genesis declares 
that God placed him ready-made in a 
ready-made world, — this is only the 
fringe of the problem and really does not 


touch its implications. It is the thorough- 
going antithesis of the modem sense of 
the relativity of meanings to the older 
sense of the absoluteness of meanings which 
makes the situation acute. It involves 
the recognition that our most sacred doc- 
trines, expressing our most confident and 
catholic beliefs about spiritual realities, 
have been experimentally achieved, and 
must be experimentally interpreted. 
Constructive work in theology must pro- 
ceed upon a clear grasp of the situation 
and a deliberate adoption of the principle 
which actually underlies our own world of 
thought. Thus only can we find a real 
point of contact between our theology and 
the thinking of the people. 

Concrete illustrations of the discord be- 
tween methods are familiar to all who touch 
the field of theology. They occur at every 
stage and phase of the work. The tradi- 
tional theology, formulated in the spirit of 
a static interpretation, protests against 
change. Her formulations are canonized 
and sacred. Modem theology says that 
the very life and efficiency of theology is 
in adjustment to the changing demands of 


life and of thought. Traditional theology 
conceives the Bible as the final message 
^ to the world. Modem theology regards 
the Bible as a faithful record of a growing 
and endless message. Traditional theology 
conceives the Bible as ''inerrant" or ''in- 
fallible," and reluctantly admits the func- 
tion of criticism. Modem theology con- 
ceives the Bible as the richest of many 
sources of practical guidance, and welcomes 
all the light of research. Traditional the- 
ology regards revelation as a constant 
quantity, an absolutum, either coextensive 
with the Bible or contained therein. The 
business of exegete and expositor is to dis- 
cover and construe this absolute content. 
Modem theology conceives revelation 
simply as what is actually revealed of God. 
Again, in the matter of doctrine, traditional 
theology regards the Bible as the ''docu- 
mented revelation of God to man,'* and the 
task of theology is "the ascertainment, 
formulation, and systematization of the 
truth thus communicated.'* Modem the- 
ology, on the other hand, seeks no such 
quantum which it can formulate and sys- 
tematize. It regards biblical accounts of 


doctrine as solutions which prophets of t^ 
the past have offered for the perennial 
problems of life. It studies these not as 
finalities, but in their roots and their fruits. 
Traditional theology regards Jesus as the 
oracle whose recorded word is the touch- 
stone of theology. Hence the proof-text 
method prevails. Modem theology re- 
gards Jesus as personality, the spirit of 
truth whose spirit — whose outlook on the 
spiritual — is indeed the test of all theology. 
But texts must be subordinated to the 
spirit that speaks through them. Literal- 
ism gives place to true spiritualism. In a>^ 
word, traditional theology moves in a 
world of absolute conceptions, searching 
an absolute Bible for an absolute revela- 
tion. Its ideal is an absolutely valid and 
permanent theology. Modem theology 
conceives its task in utterly different spirit. 
Theology is an ever growing science search- 
ing for all evidences of God's ways with 
men, all revelations of the Holy Spirit in 
experience and history. And it seeks so 
to interpret this revelation for every age 
and every man that it shall come with the 
freshness and force of God's word. 


The traditional method starts with a y/ 
body of truth accepted as absolute, and 
proceeds deductively. The modem method / 
starts with experience and history, and 
proceeds inductively. Apriorism is the key^ 
-»to traditionalism. Empiricism is the key-< 
to the modem method. According to the 
traditional method the Bible, or some reve- 
lation contained in the Bible, constitutes 
an unchanging standard of theological 
truth. For the modem method the Bible 
and its teaching, so far as we can apprehend 
it, are not finalities but registers of human 
experience and conviction. For traditional 
theology, revelation has to do with state- 
ments; for modem theology, revelation 
has to do with insight, meanings. 

Traditional theology has held aloof from 
other sciences and has grudgingly conceded 
their advance, feeling that many scien- 
tific discoveries were inimical to religion. 
Consistent with its presupposition of a 
unique, absolute standard of truth, tra- 
ditional theology has felt obliged to defend 
her dogmas, and has only reluctantly 
yielded at certain points where scientific 
criticism has compelled it. Voltraies of 


apologetics have been written whose btirden 
is this : ''Even though we have been routed 
from our ancient stronghold, scientific 
method cannot reach this new citadel of 
faith. Here is a reserved district where 
criticism cannot enter!" Thus miracles^ 
are a strong bulwark of traditional theology 
for the reason that they are inexplicable. 
Modem method, on the other hand, has 
joined hands with every scientific spirit 
and has been eager for light from every 
quarter. For the modem method has es- 
sayed to put theology upon a common 
basis with every other true science, in that 
it shall be empirical, inductive, and fear- 
lessly face the facts. It only asks for a 
proper limitation of its field, and for tests 
of truth appropriate to its subject-matter. 

Thus, while traditional method is oc- 
cupied largely with defences and with jus- 
tifying the old standards, modem method 
is studying how to make real to men of 
to-day the vital message of Christianity. 
Consistency and system is the central aim 
of the one ; reality and effectiveness is the 
aim of the other. 

To the traditional method a divine 


revelation is like Melchizedek, without 
pedigree or descent ; to the modem method, 
revelation is like a well-bom child, rich in 
ancestry and potential of unborn truth. 
For the one, discontinuity is the mark of y 
divine revelation ; for the other, contintiity ,/ 
is the test of truth. It follows that tra- ^ 
ditional method commonly insists upon 
the distinction between the natural and 
the supernatural order. The modem 
method in theology either obliterates this 
distinction or gives the terms new signifi- 

The security and certainty of the tradi-/ 
tional method is in the assumption of a 
fixed standard to which every teaching is 
brought to be measured. Freedom of . 
thought is the test of any modem the- 
ology. Therefore the method of authority 
which is the ruling ideal of traditional 
theology cannot be retained entire or in 
part by one who frankly concedes the truth 
of the modem position. Spiritual truth is 
tested by the experimental method, and 
not by the dogmatic. The incompati- 
bility is complete at this point. 

Emerging from this study of the f unda- 


mental contrast of method and spirit, there 
must be apparent a conflict of ethical ideals. 
The modem method regards traditional 
theology as ''stand-patism" in religion. 
The latter regards modem method as ''in- 
surgency." The traditional method calls 
the modem lawless and disloyal to the true 
standards, while the latter professes to be 
moved by a great moral awakening ! It 
is a phase of the old alignment of loyalist 
or patriot. It is the contrast that is re- 
peated in the clashing ideals of politics 
to-day. The politician's quarrel over thci/ 
function of the Constitution of the United 
States is repeated in the theologian's quar- 
rel over the function of the Bible. A moral 
issue is at stake here. Ultraconservatism 
in theology is but a special phase of the 
conservative spirit which rebukes every 
eager effort for progress and social reform 
with the plea that '4t will disturb business." 
The ethical value of progressive social 
leadership as over against complacency with 
the established order is not yet clearly 
recognized. Ultraconservatism, whether in 
politics or in churches, must be treated as 
an ethical symptom. 


The modem method in theology claims 
to be but fulfilling the moral logic of the 
Reformation. It rejects fixed authority as a 
religious gtiide, and trusts the revelation 
that comes in the highest experiences of the 
race. It scornfully declines to take ad- 
vantage of ''half -fare permits to the clergy" 
in theological thinking. For it is this very 
fallacy of special privilege that Luther 
struggled against. Moreover, the scientific 
spirit has accentuated the essential dis- 
honesty of claiming rational exemptions 
or privileges for theologians. No marvel 
or miracle must be made to do service for 
integrity of thinking. Here is a very real 
ethical problem involved in our thought- 
method, which is more apparent to the 
scientist than to the ecclesiastic. 

And now when the issue is squarely seen 
and felt between the modem method and 
the traditional, many a thoughtful student 
asks in dismay: ''but if there are no ab- 
solute standards in our approach to the 
Bible and Christianity, how can we be ab- 
solutely certain of the line between the true 
and the false in religious explanation? 
Where are the old, sectire tmits of thought ? " 


The answer lies at hand. The ''absolute 
certainty, " in the sense meant, has disap-/^ 
peared with the other absolutes of the older 
method. Religion has no arbitrary ex- 
ternal standard of certainty. With all 
other true sciences theology comes back to 
the tests of inteUigence and the verifica- 
tion of experience. Independent ''proofs"^ 
we have none. Are we ''absolutely cer- 
tain" of our conclusions in chemistry or in 
ethics ? The question is academic. Practi- 
cally, we can affirm no such infallible stand- 
ards. "For certainty in concrete things is *^ 
a matter of life rather than of speculation." 
In view of the instinctive protest that 
arises here from those who feel that this is 
dismissing the whole matter of truth with 
an airy wave of the hand, or at least making 
it a purely subjective and relative matter, 
we point out that this apprehension arises 
from false inference as to the consequences 
of method. The earth is as real and solid «- 
since we have discovered that it whirls 
in space and is among the smallest of a 
universe of worlds, as it was when people re- 
garded it as "fixed" and flat and lonely. 
Neither does any atomic theory or theory 


of electrons undermine our confidence in 
the security of things. The recognition of 
movement does not affect the essential 
stability of things, — it only interprets that 
stability. So in religious explanation we 
need only to note the actual security of the 
reaUties involved, and adjust our precon- 
ceived notions to the newer insight. 

And in any case we cannot restore the 
^^ Ptolemaic conception of the human world 
as static. Our world of mind and morals 
and religion ''does move," though it is 
controlled by laws as faithful as God him- 
self ! Otir security, like that of all legiti- 
mate explanation, rests upon the asstmip- 
tion that this is an ''honest world." The 
movements of life are not lawless. Se- 
curity lies in mastering and obeying the 
laws of life, rational and spiritual. . The- 
ology assumes the veracity of the religious 
world, though it cannot "prove" its right 
to its asstmiption. 

Turning now from the consideration of 
this fundamental discord, which we regard 
as the real crux of the present confusion, we 
call attention to a principle of philosophic 


discrimination too often neglected in re- 
ligious interpretation. 

Any really consistent and fruitful think- 
ing is controlled by a view of the world 
which involves certain presuppositions, a 
certain large view of the meaning of life, 
and a corresponding ideal of philosophic 
method. Thus the great philosophies fall 
into distinct types according to these pre- 
suppositions upon which they rest. For 
freedom in philosophic thinking can only 
mean freedom to be absolutely faithful 
to controlling principles. "Freedom of 
thought," in the sense of lawless or un- 
principled thinking, is tmreason. Now it 
follows that certain types of philosophic 
method, proceeding from presuppositions 
which are inimical to religion itself, are 
valueless or confusing when applied to 
religious problems. For example, an 
avowed atheistic philosophy of life could not 
consistently expound reUgion based upon 
theism. There are many present-day cur- 
rents of thought which are impUcitly ma- 
terialistic, atheistic, or thoroughly agnostic 
of religious values. When a man con- 
trolled by such a philosophy enters the 


field of theology, whether as exegete, ex- 
positor, or systematic formulator of the- 
ology, his findings have a qualified value. 
They must always be estimated upon the 
background of the theorist's implicit assump- 
tions. Christianity is not consistent with 
any and all philosophies, and the failure 
to heed this truth has produced a great 
number of bizarre and valueless volumes of 
so-called ''scientific" treatment of the 
Bible and of Christianity. If thinking is 
to be consequent, it must be consistent; 
and there is no such thing as a disinterested 
or colourless attitude in philosophy. The 
i thinker is always committed to something, 
and his thinking will have this element of 
relativity. So in the matter of theological 
method in general, the work of exegetes 
and theologians should be examined in 
their ftmdamental, controlling principles 
and not in their surface utterances. Some 
very keen and able men are disqualified 
for the work under consideration. 

We merely point out here some of the 
currents of thought which neutralize the 
value of religious explanation when they 
are in control, for the reason that they 


carry asstimptions which undermine the 
values to which religion is committed. 

1. First of all, there is a false naturalism ^ 
which sometimes busies itself with religious 
problems. Naturalism is the type of phi- 
losophy, based upon the analogy of the 
method of natural science, which explains 
all things in terms of genesis and process. 
It ''functions" so easily with the social 
consciousness of to-day that it is capable of 
easy perversion. It might be characterized 
as the anatomical study of personal and 
social phenomena. This naturalistic study 
of phenomena in terms of beginnings and 
processes does bring us a great insight. 
But the danger is in the false naturalism 
which says, in effect, that explanation in 
terms of process is the full account of things. 
Anatomy is the last word. This attitude 
is familiar to students in the field of religion ; 
but it is a barren attitude, for it stops short 
of those meanings and values of religion 
which give it worth and warmth and power. 

2. There is a current form of abstracts- 
ideaUsm in philosophy which perpetuates the 
myopic vision of the old rationalism and 
treats all problems in a transcendental 



Spirit. Many of the religious fads of our 
day are examples of this type of treatment. 
Caring more for the articulations of abstract 
speculation than for the articulations of 
life, explanations of this type often deal in 
airy and pretentious styles of philosophic 
architecture which appeal to the pride of 
the half-educated. The weakness of this 
type of philosophy is that the demands of 
life and experience are overlooked in the 
abstract and vague effort to reach some 
supposed logical demand. Moral distinc- 
tions are levelled, and the thread of reality 
is snapped, when religion commits itself to 
these abstractions. 

3. There is a curious blending of the 
method of naturalism and that of abstract 
idealism in a popular exegetical or historical 
movement widely current to-day. This 
is the attempt to ''explain" a doctrine or a 
man or a movement by a process of analysis 
which ultimately brings the object sought 
to the vanishing point. Under the guise 
of ptirsuing an ''historical method" it 
makes abstract idealism its directive prin- 
ciple, and by a process of refinement, of 
casting out everything that can be "ac- 


counted for" by the laws of development, 
it essays to reach a sediment, an "irredu- 
cible minimtmi" of truth with which it can 
operate. We are familiar with the attempts 
made in this spirit to discover the "essence 
of Christianity" or the "ptire gospel." 

4. Again, there is a movement of thought 
that expresses an overdone principle of 
empiricism. The pragmatic method ex- 
presses the psychological emphasis of the 
age. But an excessive pragmatism, which 
renounces all ideal values and makes the 
test of truth to be merely the demands of 
the hour, is likely to overlook all the forces 
that stand above actual life and command 
it. Thought itself becomes an inverte- 
brate, molluscous thing when it thus repeats 
the old positivism and makes the actual 
order the measure of truth. 

Thus we might attempt to pick out the 
philosophic currents and cross-currents 
which go to make up the mental world of a 
given age, and we might profitably at- 
tempt to distinguish currents from the 
tidal movements in which all men seem to 
think together. We make here this partial 
analysis not in the interest of a thorough- 


going criticism or condemnation ; we only 
point out that a philosophic method which is 
sceptical or agnostic at its roots or in its 
fundamental principles must inevitably re- 
peat its scepticisms in its formulated account 
of life and religion. So far to transcend dif- 
ferences of method as justly to estimate 
them all in their limitations as well as in 
their fruitfulness, is the real goal of philo- 
sophic insight. Only as a theologian meas- 
urably attains to this power of rowing 
against currents can he be other than the 
helpless victim of a prevailing current or 
Zeitgeist. A theological student must tm- 
derstand the rationale of the movements 
of thought that surround him, and thus 
be able discriminatingly to assess the value 
of his own logic and his own conclusion. 

A concrete statement of some of the more 
important positive constructive principles 
may serve as a working outline of modem 
theological method. 

First. — Theology and religion must not 
be treated as identical. Religion is the 
great hviman fact that expresses the soul's 
life illuminated and controlled by the vision 


of the divine. Theology is the mind's 
interpretation of this primal fact of life. 
Theology thus becomes ptirely instnmiental 
and secondary to religion. 

Secondly. — As a htmian fact, religion is 
not a constant quantity in any save a con- 
ceptual sense. It is a growing fact, respon- 
sive to the whole complex, growing life of 
a man. Theology, the intellectual inter- 
pretation of religion, must not only take^ 
account of this incessant movement of the 
htmian spirit and its response to its vision of 
God ; but itself, as our thought about reli- 
gion, is subject to the laws of thought. This 
inevitably means that there will be change, 
development, in our interpretation of reli- 
gion. Theology cannot be a constant quan- 
tity to be handed out to succeeding genera-^ 
tions of thinkers ; in a living race or a living 
man it outgrows all arbitrary standards. 

The historical study of doctrine thus be- 
comes a first principle of theological method. 
Every Christian doctrine must be inter- '^ 
preted in the light of its history. The real 
meaning of the doctrine must have regard 
not only for its origin but for its develop- 
ment and goal. Jesus exemplified this 


principle in his demand for "fulfilment" 
of inherited truths. 

We must recognize that the ruling con- 
ceptions of any age — its science, its phi- 
losophy, and its whole outlook upon life — 
are inevitably reflected in its thinking and 
shape its doctrinal interpretations. As 
these conceptions grow or change from age 
to age with the growth of society, we must 
learn to discriminate between the abiding 
truth of a doctrine and its age-form. For 
every great theology may be regarded as 
the answer which a given man or a given 
age gave to these rehgious questions that 
come to us all. Thus the great creeds and 
symbols of the church become landmarks, 
monuments, rich revelations of truth to 
guide us. But a creed or a doctrinal state- 
ment cannot become a fixed standard. It 
is a witness to a spiritual reality ; not the 
living reality itself. 

On the other hand, this principle of rel- 
ativity has some vital consequences for 
constructive theology to-day. Our ac- 
cepted conceptions of the world must find 
sympathetic understanding in the terms of 
otir theological thought. For otir own 


"niKng conceptions'' must be the vehicles 
of the spiritual message to us. Anachro- 
nisms may not be untrue, but they are in- 
adequate to produce conviction. Thus such 
conceptions as law, development, imma-/. 
nence, socialism, and the like must be the 
Spirit's instrtiment to us. Hence the theo- 
logian must know the ''social conscious- 
ness" of his own time as well as of past ages. 
To an age which is scientific, democratic, 
social, ethical, in its deepest consciousness, 
we must not urge religious conceptions 
which run athwart these convictions. The- 
ology must not only be moralized anew, but 
it must be democratized and socialized. 
In these great human movements which 
express the progress of the race, men must 
find God and his will revealed. As life 
grows and^ progresses, the living touch with 
God can be maintained only by rediscover- 
ing God and reinterpreting Him in the life 
that we know. The deepening and enrich- 
ment of life expressed by the advance of the 
ethical and social sciences, as well as all 
awakening of htimanitarian feeling and 
ministry, is at the service of those who 
would interpret God. 



Thirdly. — This principle of growth and 
development must be applied to the bib- 
lical record precisely as to any other record 
of htmian experience. The scholar has the 
same rights of investigation and criticism 
in the biblical record as in any other. We 
may not canonize any standard as an ah- 
solutum of truth. Nowhere are the re- 
spective angles of approach of the traditional 
and the modem student of religion more 
radically contrasted than here. 

The contention for an ''infallible rule of 
'^ faith" which characterized the traditional 
demand for a directive standard in theology, 
we must metamorphose into the forms of 
verification or tests of truth recognized by 
modem thinking. The synthesis of experi- 
>ence, history, and reason forms the tribtmal 
where our certainties are tested. Thus 
theology takes its place among the sciences. 
It is no truer than they ; but it is as true, 
and the theologian's passion for truth finds 
scientific satisfaction. Truth lies in the 
maintaining of balance in the application of 
our tests of truth. An overemphasis upon 
experience results in mysticism ; an overem- 
phasis upon history results in a false nattiral- 


ism ; an overemphasis upon reason results in 
rationalism. Each expresses an excess. 

Fourthly. — Christian theology interprets 
the type of spiritual life and experience 
which Jesus Christ created and of which He 
is the supreme revelation and standard. 
Christian theology, therefore, is the type 
of religious interpretation which always 
comes back to the spirit of Jesus Christ 
for its final test. It stands or falls with the 
test of the spiritual ideal which He in- 
carnated in His character and conduct. 
And we must come back again and again 
to the concrete historical Jesus and His 
gospel to measure and test the spirit of the 
living Christ whose guidance within us 
is our supreme wisdom. 

To summarize : the task of Christian the- 
ology is to learn the Christian gospel of the 
spiritual life in the fullest and clearest way 
in which it has been revealed — in Jesus 
Christ, and in all experience and history 
as the context of Jesus and His gospel — 
and then to find the vehicle for the ex- 
pression of thought which shall bring to 
living men Jesus' sense of a living message 
from the Living God. 

The Justification of the Method 

Traditional theology has sought to for- 
mulate religious truth in final, changeless 
propositions, giving it mathematical pre- 
cision. In the preceding chapter we have 
shown that modem theology is controlled 
by a principle of insight which displaces this 
static method by recognizing the essentially 
progressive and developing nature of all 
the vital factors involved. Among these 
factors concerned in theological interpre- 
tation are language, thought, and personality. 
The sciences of philology, epistemology, and 
psychology, all- witness to the living, develop- 
ing nature of religious explanation. We 
must attend now more specifically to the 
testimony of these branches of htmian 

I. The Argument from Language 

A study of the nature of language brings 
convincing evidence of the evils which grow 



out of the attempt to rest in fixed formulas 
of truth, and reveals the necessity of 
constant restatement in order to serve the 
demands of life. Language is purely in- 
strumental. It is called into being to serve 
the needs of thought. Its value is in pro- 
portion to its adequacy in performing 
this function. To symbolize and communi- 
cate our characteristic human experiences, 
we create language. Primitive life has 
very primitive language; developed life 
has highly developed language, coming 
ever to more exact and concrete forms of 
expression. But the purely instrumental 
nature of language is not done away with 
simply because it has become a better 
instrtiment. A language which no longer 
grows to express growing need, thereby 
becomes a "dead language." Life must 
ever find expression in living, growing 

Now the close relationship between lan- 
guage and meaning and our failure to make 
legitimate distinction, results always in 
some form of literalism. Literalism is the 
bltmder of resting in the symbol and not 
pressing back to the thing symbolized. 


The letter takes the place of the spirit. 
Literalism is always threatening us, whether 
in the realm of theory or of practice. 
It is always a hurtful, deadening tendency ; 
but it grows up so naturally out of the 
processes of human development and com- 
mends itself so insidiously and plausibly, 
that we often fall victims to one of its 
forms even while in the act of protesting 
against another form. Literalism, legalism, 
.dogmatism, formalism, — they all belong 
to the same brood. They all mistake a 
form of expression for the deeper facts 

In the realm of conduct, the fallacy of 
reUgious formalism and legalism is apparent 
enough. The evil consists in resting in 
forms, — mistaking the expression for the 
thing expressed. It results in a form of 
deceit, in which we are defrauded of the 
content. Hypocrisy and all shams of life 
and character we universally condemn. 
But in the domain of thought and speech, 
there are subtle evils of linguistic usage 
that sometimes' deceive us simply because 
we do not analyze them and perceive their 
superficial character. This relativity of 


language can be best exhibited by pointing 
out one or two aspects that inhere in its 
very genesis and structure. 

Life itself begins on the animal plane and 
only gradually develops to its higher as- 
pects. We are animals before we are 
moral personalities and worshippers. That 
is not first which is spiritual, but that which 
is natural : afterward that which is spiritual. 
Our language, however, is formed on the 
sense-plane to meet our sense-needs and 
to express sensuous conceptions. As life ^ 
comes to a higher plane we use these same 
words and forms of speech, metaphorically, 
in speaking of spiritual things. The result 
is that by means of the pedigree of language 
we sometimes drag in materialistic and 
sense implications, where the intent of 
the language is purely spiritual. Only 
incessant criticism and discrimination can 
save us from crude and hurtful inferences 
suggested by word origins. 

The practical sense of inner dualism 
which the apostle Paul discovered within 
himself is repeated in the moral experience 
of us all. The natural, the material, the 
sensual, is always present, a part of our 


experience, wooing us from the spiritual. 
The very reality of the spiritual is con- 
stantly questioned, in the overwhelming 
sense of the natural, which ever environs. 
And here our speech subtly betrays us. 
Our language — the very words that we 
use and the structure of our rhetoric — 
is constantly reenforcing the spontaneous 
impression of the superior reality of the 
natural, and thus betraying us into the atti- 
tude of sceptics toward the spiritual. 

Even our most poetic speech betrays this 
sense-origin. The religious man speaks of 
a ''high" moral attainment, or the 
''depths" of sin ; and thus uses words with 

.^a space implication for conceptions that 
are non-spatial. So with "God in us," 
the "pouring out " of the Spirit, or the moral 
"fall" of a life. Even "inspiration" 
and "aspiration" have a primary physical 
reference, with a spiritual intention. We 
express meanings that are incommensurate 
with our words. The language of religion 

^is thus necessarily symbolical and meta- 
phorical. In dealing with the deeper mean- 
ings of the spirit, men deliberately employ 
words which betray their natural origin. 


and assume that their hearers will not rest 
in the lower meanings expressed, but will 
go on to the higher meanings implied. 
That is, we commonly assume the activity 
of a personal response that goes quite 
beyond our speech. Men who live on 
lower levels will not tmderstand the lan- 
guage. If they take it literally, they lose 
all the higher meanings. If they may 
not thus take it literally, they will say that 
it is the language of some unreality. Thus 
literalism is ever threatening spiritualism 
because our etymology seems to offer a 
solid basis in the substantial, natural order. 
Our imagery fails to kindle the vision. 
Language becomes an implicit argument 
against the reality of the spiritual world, 
since the hearer rests in the pedigree of the 
word and not in its intent. All of this but ^ 
illustrates the peril of trying to establish 
final and "absolute'' standards of religious 
faith and revelation in a medium of written 
and spoken language. The zeal of many an 
orthodox ''defender" of the faith is tmcon- 
sdously expended in the form of literalism. 
But apart from this materialistic ref- 
erence there is a persistent mechanical 


literalism in biblical interpretation that 
seems to defy all of the common rules of 
intelligence and dwells in figures of speech 
rather than in meaning. It comes armed 
with grammars and dictionaries and canons 
and inf aUible rules and wrests the Scriptures 
to the destruction of all spiritual ideals. 
The language of metaphor is hardened 
into literal statement, and the spirit 
escapes in the insistence upon the letter. 
Here the danger is mechanical rather than 
material. The only escape is to remember 
that the invisible things of the spirit can 
find no language but that of metaphor. 
When tmspeakable things must be spoken, 
we find the best symbol that we can, and 
we trust the hearer to note that our lan- 
guage is that of metaphor and not of 
metaphysics. Our thought perceives simi- 
larities between the picture we use and the 
unpicturable reality. We hope to stimu- 
late like thoughts in the mind of the reader 
or hearer, and trust him to pass from the 
picture or symbol to that other thing 
symbolized. In this complex mental activ- 
ity there are opportunities for thought to 
lose its way. Forgetting that words are 


cotinters to symbolize reality, the mind is 
prone to rest in the words or symbols; 
and dulness, or indolence, or the shallow- 
ness and carelessness of popular thought 
easily acquiesces in what seems an obvious 
or concrete meaning. Thus figures of 
speech are allowed to do duty as a final 
account of reality. What began as legiti- 
mate symbolism ends in metaphysics ! 

The gist of much theological folly is 
fotmd in this failure to pass from the 
symbol to the thing symbolized. Our exe- 
gesis has often been an exegesis of metaphors 
and not of meanings. The crassest or even 
immoral meanings have been tortured from 
the Bible by methods of exegesis that show 
no comprehension of the instrumental na- 
ture of language and little spiritual insight. 
Excessive reverence for "The Word of/^ 
God" has dulled our vision of the meaning 
of the Word of God. We have so wor- 
shipped the letter that it has ceased to be 
a vehicle to us of truth that passeth utter- 
ance. The history of popular biblical in- 
terpretation is full of this literalistic ten- 
dency, leading to all manner of absurdities 
and fanaticisms. And even in the realm of 


learned exposition a species of literalism 
has often concealed the deepest truths. 
Metaphorical allusions of biblical writers 
to criminal law, to commercial usage, and 
to now long out-grown ideals of feudal 
or absolute government and primitive jus- 
tice have been allowed to dominate Christian 
theology tmtil now. Thus employed, the 
''Cross," the ''Blood of Christ,'' "Sacri- 
fice," "Redemption," "Salvation," and the 
vital imagery of the living truth graphically 
set forth in our Bible, result in superficial 
travesties of the inner meanings which 
command men and bless them. The his- 
tory of every Christian doctrine affords 
illustration of the failure adequately to 
discriminate meaning from metaphor. The 
"Fatherhood" of God and the "Sonship" 
of Jesus Christ are examples of fundamental 
conceptions of the Christian faith which in 
both learned treatises and popular usage 
exhibit a mixture of metaphor and meta- 
physics. The necessity of mentally wres- 
tling with these problems is likely to prove a 
"means of grace" in that such mental 
effort compels us to press into the deeper 
inner meaning of the terms. For God's 


blessed meanings must come fresh and new 
to every generation, to every individual 
man as we wrestle with the perennial prob- 
lems of religion. The pnming of the Bible 
texts which modem criticism has accom- 
plished has practical justification, if it has 
so far shocked us out of a species of orthodox 
literalism that we gain a new sense of the 
immediacy of God's message. 

Thus again does the relative and instru- 
mental nature of language illustrate the 
necessity of relaxing the rigid and static 
treatment of any literary work as an 
''infallible rule" of life, or as containing 
an ''absolute" content that can be codified 
or reduced to a constant content always 
equal to itself. Growth, development, 
fluency, and relativity are characteristic 
of the language in which we must express 
our highest truth. Both Bible exegetes 
and theology-makers may profitably shape 
their methods by the clear implication of 
language as relative and instrumental. 

II. The Argument from the Laws of Thought 

Back of speech lies the mental activity 
of which language is the symbol. Will an 


exaxnination of thought reveal constants 
which justify absolute standards of lehgious 
interpretation ? 

One of the first regulative conceptions 
that meets us to-day in analyzing our 
thoughts about things is the conviction 
that our very explanations are instrumental 
to the larger facts of life as experienced. 
Our best explanations are not ends in them- 
selves, but they are in the service of a larger 
need ; namely, the satisfaction of the per- 
sonal ideals of existence. The intellect 
is active and constructive, not passive. 
Thought is teleological ; logic is instru- 
mental. To forget this teleological aspect 
of thought is to fall into abstractions and 
rationalisms. The student who makes his 
study and explanation to be the ultimate 
ends of life has inverted this principle, 
and has defeated the ends of education. 
''Truth for its own sake" and the ''disin- 
terested search for truth" are abstract 
ideals of mental method which after all are 
not justified by the nature of intelligence. 
All fruitful thinking has implicit reference 
to self-preservation in the completest sense. 
The driving principle of thinking is the 


satisfaction which it administers to the 
personal life as a whole, not the mechanical 
necessity of some "logical reason" which 
grinds out logical finalities. The will to 
know lies behind all fniitful knowing; 
and thus the essentially volitional and 
ethical root of our ''disinterested'' mental 
accotmts of reality is revealed. A certain 
relativity in thinking is forced upon us, — a 
personal equation which we cannot elimi- 
nate. Happily this is emerging into clearer 
light in our popular educational methods. 
Our best educators are coming to see that 
education cannot be a purely intellectual 
discipline. Intellect is not a compartment 
of life, but a living ftmction of life. Educa- 
tional ideals are coming more and more to 
recognize the necessity of educating the 
whole personality. Sound pedagogy rec- 
ognizes the self-defeating nature of methods 
that aim at "intellectual development," 
oblivious to the organic nature of mind in 
which will and intellect, character and 
thought, are reciprocally bound in the unity 
of a living whole. Ethical and religious 
considerations condition the educator's 
problem, even in public schools. The 


idealistic and ''practical" aspects of educa- 
tion cannot be arbitrarily separated as 
in the past. Self-realization is an ideal 
which is at least implicit in all right edu- 
cational method. 

Now this teleological and instrumental 
nature of explanation has consequences 
for theological method. Thinking as a 
teleological activity of mind is a very 
different thing from thinking viewed as 
the impersonal and necessary transcript 
of the "Divine Reason." The governing 
ideal of ''pure logic" seeking irrefutable 
and independent proofs of the ftmda- 
mental truths of religion gives way to the 
vital and almost infinitely versatile efforts 
of living intelligence to comprehend and 
construe the realities of experience. Aprio- 
rism gives way to empiricism. New methods 
of thought and explanation are dispelling 
the rigidities of the older intellectualism 
and replacing them with the growing in- 
sights of living intelligence. A static epis- 
temology gives place to the insights of 
developing consciousness. 

The shortcomings of the static "logical 
truths" of the older philosophies is suffi- 


ciently illustrated by the ravages of logical 
abstractions in most of the older theologies. 
Not recognizing the living nature of 
thought-activities, the forms or units of 
thinking were allowed to harden into rigid 
finalities. Forms created by the mind to 
serve its needs were tmcritically allowed to 
tyrannize over the mind itself. This was 
particularly the case with generalizations 
which the mind constructs to symbolize 
the universals and the principles which it 
formulates in order to manage its problems. 
The generalizing habit is characteristic of 
mental activity. These'generalizations are 
construction^ of the mind which serve, 
instnmientally, the purposes of thought. 
But when they are not seen in their teleo- 
logical nature, but are broken from their 
ftmctional connections and allowed to 
harden into final realities, they misrepresent 
reality. They become abstractions. The 
resulting philosophy is abstract and aca- 
demic, and, to this extent, beside the mark. 
Thought grows arrogant and arbitrary and 

This is a leading characteristic of most 
intellectualism, and it is the besetting 


fallacy of the scholastic philosophies, in 
the atmosphere of which most of otir ortho- 
dox theologies were formulated. The con- 
sequence of reading much of the tradi- 
tional formulation of religious truth is to 
rebel at its unreality. Much of it is logi- 
cally well reasoned and massive in scope 
and outUne; but it constantly falls into 
the fallacy of allowing its thought-tmits to 
harden into rigid abstractions which do not 
truthfully serve the fluent purposes of life. 
Thus our theologies bristle with such ab- 
stractions as ''Man," ''Nature," "Sin," 
"Redemption," "Grace," "Love," "Salva- 
tion," and the like. In the same spirit 
these units of thought are constructed into 
formulas which are alleged to provide for 
all the religious needs of life. Somewhat 
after the manner of algebraic formulas 
these scholastic doctrines constructed of 
logical abstractions are offered for the 
understanding of the Christian way of life. 
Our present-day difficulty is in so far 
ridding ourselves of the abstract forms of 
the truth that its concrete application to 
specific needs will be apparent. The 
"sinner" needs to be "saved." But the 


''sinner" is such an inconstant quantity, 
and '' salvation " is such a varjdng need, that 
the spiritual formula does not illuminate 
adequately the real problem of saving the 
individual man. ''Salvation" as a great 
abstraction, or even as a programme, has 
confused the preaching of Jesus' Gospel. 
Even the formula, "Believe on the Lord ^. 
Jesus Christ and ye shall be saved" has 
worked a very superficial and hurtful sort 
of result in history, when it has been re- 
garded in this absolute sense, as an all- 
inclusive formula, without attending to 
insight into concrete meanings. Charle- 
magne "converted" and baptized the re-^ 
bellious Saxons four successive times in 
response to their acquiescence in this for- 
mtola. History is full of "conversions," 
individual and national, which expressed 
mere acquiescence in abstract and absolute 
formulas. The trouble was not with the 
truth of the formula, but in its failure to 
articulate into life's realities. 

The only way to escape these ineffectual 
formulations of religious explanation is to 
abandon the static conception of thought 
which moves in terms of logical abstrac- 


tions. And this is achieved as we perceive 
the fluent, developing nature of all our finite 
life, and the instrumental and functional 
nature of thought as aiming at living in- 
sight and vital ministry. Not logic as a 
closed rational system, nor explanation as a 
final statement of truth, is our ideal; but 
the best insight into life that intelligence 
can gain, and the best vital ministry to 
life that intelligence can offer. When the 
method is thus relaxed to fit the concrete 
pluralism of life, the rigid, absolute quality 
of a imiform, religious ** salvation" for 
''sinners" gives place to the saving ministry 
required by concrete cases. The measure 
of need and the kind of need must inform 
and direct those who prescribe for the 
' ' salvation "of lost' ' men. Theology must 
sensitively reflect all of this versatile reli- 
gious experience if it is to render a con- 
crete, practical service for life. 

III. {The Argument from Psychological 

But neither language nor thought can 
be understood in their essential nature 
except as we gain a consistent attitude 


toward the ulterior problem of the Ego or 
Self. The confusion commonly begins in 
the psychology which explicitly or implicitly 
controls one's thinking. How shall we 
conceive the subject of the mental and 
spiritual life? Is personality a unity ob- 
tained by addition, a sum; or the living 
unity of self-consciousness and self- 
determination ? 

Religious interpretation is always keyed 
to one of two possible conceptions of ex- ^ 
planation, the Mechanical or the Personal. 
In other words, psychology, the real start- 
ing-point" of all systematic thinking, casts 
its shadow or its light ahead upon the whole 
philosophy which operates in its name. 
Mechanism and intelligence are two ideals 
of reason, mutually unassimilable in the 
last analysis. A psychology or conception 
of mind which makes personality a func- 
tion of brain and nerves, denying identity, 
the power of free action, and making 
thought an "association" or movement of 
nerve-products, — has virtually adopted 
the mechanistic ideal of mind, however 
adroitly the adoption is concealed by figu- 
rative language and ambiguous terms. Op- 


posed to this is the conception of mind as 
living spirittial organism, with original 
powers of thinking, willing, feeling, — vital 
forms of energy in which it manifests its 
own self-identity and tmity. The soul 
with its native capacity of free insight is in 
this point of view the real irreducible tmit. 
The self, realizing its nature in the ex- 
periences which we call personal, can be 
studied fruitfully from many viewpoints; 
but any lapse that forgets that mind is 
organic life and not passive mould threatens 
the student with the fallacies that beset 
mechanical thinking. 

Discrimination in psychology is the more 
necessary, since in an age of natural science 
methods with their resultant naturalism, 
the insidious temptation is always with us 
to reduce everything to the familiar ideals 
of natural science, i.e. mechanism. The 
danger is the more threatening, too, because 
of the close connection between mental 
data on the one hand, and nervous organism 
on the other. An intimate parallelism 
^ exists. Nevertheless, the absolute identi- 
fication of the mental and the physical 
orders cannot be accomplished. An ex- 


cessive empiricism in dealing with mental 
data is likely to overtook the analytically 
determined conditions of mental life. The 
attempt to manage psychical problems 
from the physiological stancjpoint is essen- 
tially the mechanistic theory of mind. 
Consciousness is a unique fact, inexplicable 
in terms of anything else. It is active 
agent, and not merely passive recipient. 
It is a true source of spiritual energy. 

Frankly accepting this conception of the 
subject of experience, certain consequences 
are seen to follow in our conceptions of in- 
terpretation and revelation. One of these 
consequences is that the tests of religious 
truth are enlarged to fit the profoundly com- 
plex and versatile nature of personality. 
Rationalism, mysticism, voltmtarism, and 
every form of religious insight and confi- 
dence become, in this view, aspects of the 
inner certainty which intelligence seeks to 
win for itself. Each has a relative validity 
in its account of reality, and every form of 
knowledge will be evaluated according to 
the tj^e of insight demanded by the indi- 

With this insistence upon personality 


as the original and inner energy of con- 
sciotisness, the teleological nature of re- 
ligious empiricism appears. Our religious 
^doctrines are largely achieved in life and 
not in logic. Thought, as we indicated in 
the last section, has a practical function 
and is not an end in itself. It is instru- 
mental to this larger fact of personal life 
as it presents itself in experience. This 
concrete reference of all fruitful thinking 
is a generally accepted directive principle 
in philosophy to-day. Experience stands in 
its own right as reporting the nature of 
life and the world. The function of re- 
flective thought is to aid, by criticising 
and rationally testing, the reports of ex- 
perience. If thought forgets this instru- 
mental and practical function in bringing 
satisfaction to the soul's life, and assumes 
to be an end in itself, it tyrannizes over 
life and issues in rationalisms and logical 

This is just what has happened in the ages 
in which philosophy has asstmied to be a 
matter of *' pure intellect." The presup- 
position of the magnitude and character of 
intelligence as organic has been overlooked. 


Philosophy has forgotten its instrumental 
relation to life, and has produced ''logical 
systems" with little regard for concrete 
reality. In such an age and in such a 
spirit theology has essayed to deal with 
religious certainty. She has buttressed it 
with demonstrative arguments and sur- 
rotmded it with chains of logical reasoning. 
The aim has been to produce an ''infallible 
rule of faith and practice" that could be 
worked and defended as a whole. 

This seems an inversion of the order of 
life. Character, conduct, the quality of ^ 
personality, enter into problems of religious 
belief. What we are and what our vital 
needs demand for their satisfaction de- 
termines pretty largely what we believe. 
Our creeds are not primarily matters ot^ 
philosophy, but of life. The fullest life 
must be the ultimate testing-place of truth 
and untruth. It has been happily pointed 
out that we gain our conceptions of truth 
by the principle of ' ' eminent domain. ' ' We 
enter into life in an act of vital experience, 
and thus affirm the "right of seizure" 
of such beliefs as are necessary to our 
experience and to the maintenance of our 


highest life. Thus life produces belief, 
and belief responds to the demands of life 
and makes place for the best life. In this 
experienced correspondence with the en- 
vironing, spiritual worid, we have our deep- 
est witness to the f tmdamental truth of our 

Again, the conception of mind as active 
provides for the original element in ethics. 
The essence of the highest morality is not 
merely imitation but creation. Ethical per- 
sonality must win its moral world. The 
failure of mechanical ethics is apparent 
here. No tmiversal mould of perfection 
is adequate to the ethical problem. To be 
moral in the highest reaches of the term is 
not merely to follow faithfully established 
rules of conduct; it is to have an insight 
into the progressive implications of moral 
living. Ethical life endures as ** seeing the 
invisible." Morality is not a static .affair. 
It involves progress, growth, fulfilment. 
There is a teleological element in moral 
insight. The progress of society roots in 
this original creative power of the soul. 
Any adequate interpretation of moral re- 
ligion must heed this principle. 


It is evident that this essentially original 
and versatile power of personality in its 
ethical experience has some implications 
for our treatment of Christian ethics, es- 
pecially in the matter of otir attitude to- 
ward the Bible as the ''rule of faith and 
practice." To use other men's visions, i^ 
to rest back upon moral truth already 
revealed, content only to defend it, — this 
is not the attitude of a great moral teacher 
or a great moral age. The passion to 
bring the life of the present tmder the 
authority of the expanding moral ideal is a 
characteristic of a great ethical conscience. 

Moral passion always overflows the dog- 
mas erected to outline its course. The 
task of Christian ethics is not only to ex-,^ 
potmd biblical visions, but to lead men to 
an original vision of God in the moral life 
of to-day. The stimulus of contact with 
the ancient seers should make seers of the 
men of to-day. 

The quality of surprise, the ''overflow" 
of new and profounder experiences, is a 
characteristic mark of the higher spiritual 
levels. The subtle impact of personality 
upon personality is the condition of true 


ethical progress. Such guidance calls not 
only for patterns, but ideals ; not rules, but 
pregnant principles ; not systems of ethics, 
but persons. Spiritual life is a seed. It 
is ever pregnant with new forms of life. 
Jesus himself did not destroy the old order ; 
neither did he repeat it. He ''fulfilled " the 
old morality. He rebuked static ortho- 
doxy. If we would follow Jesus, we must 

^pass from imitative to initiative moral 
living. History has amply proved that the 
Christian's Bible has an awakening and 

^ creative power for spiritual life. But the 
mechanical terminology of a *'rule" fails 
to set forth this marvellous germinative 
dynamic of the Scriptures. Any external 

-^authority, even an external divinity, is 
yet external. The divine works in us to 
will and to do. Religion can never be 
regarded as a mere copying process, — a 
sort of final etiquette. Rather, religion 
describes the whole endlessly varied fact 
of human history enacted under the inspira- 
tion of the divine and responding more or 
less consciously to the sense of the Eternal. 
Religion at its best is life, individual and 
social, interpreted and lived in the im- 


mediate vision of the Living God, and con- 
trolled by instant response to the divine 
will. The tiltimate place of control is 
spirittial personality in process of self- 
achievement. And the condition or in- 
strument of this awakening and self-achieve- 
ment is the social organism itself where 
personality inspires personality. 

The Consequences of the Method 

The preceding chapter undertook to show 
analytically the inherent impossibility of a 
permanent theology, and pointed toward a 
conception of religious explanation which 
should express the endless growth and 
adjustment of human life. We have now 
to discuss the consequences of this method 
at certain points where its adoption in- 
volves somewhat radical divergence from 
the traditional conception of theology; 
namely, (i) in our attitude toward the 
church and its interpretations, (2) in our 
attitude toward the Bible, and (3) in our 
attitude toward Christ. 

Broadly speaking, there are two funda- 
mentally contrasted methods of treating 
the abiding facts of Christianity. One has 
the advantage of being associated with 
primitive Christianity, and of being identi- 
fied with the whole history until the present. 
It has the advantage which custom, senti- 


ment, and venerable tradition bring. The ^ 
other has the advantage of being more con- 
sonant with the modem method of thinking 
things, and of being in closer touch with 
forms of explanation which convey reality 
to -men to-day. 

The older way of thinking, associated 
with most orthodox interpretation, regards 
the Christian faith as ''the faith which Was 
once for all delivered unto the saints." 
It conceives revelation as a body of truth*- 
or doctrine found as a deposit in one his- 
toric age or geographical district. It is 
a ''revelation'' once for all given within a 
certain circumscribed body of people or 
within certain writings. Or, again, it is 
certain commtmications or items of in- 
formation given through certain accredited 
agencies. It is a definite pattern of life, 
or an accredited oracle. It is a doctrine 
or revelation of truth which is to be endlessly 
repeated without losing its authority or 
its originally circumscribed identity. " The ^ 
church is not an institution for the discovery 
of truth, but a body for the preservation 
and dissemination of truth once for all 
delivered." This is an admirable state- 


ment of the view as held by a modem 
defender. Certain history, certain people, 
i certain writings, are abruptly isolated from 
other history and literature, and are con- 
ceived as tmique and unassimilable. The 
revelation is closed. According to this 
theory the spiritual authority for all his- 
tory and all life after the tmique period of 
revelation is to be found by reference 
to that period. The conceptions of the 
church, of the Bible, and of Christ as 
guiding facts are brought into some sort 
of harmony with this general outlook upon 
the source of Christian guidance. Gen- 
erally speaking, we have a ''sacred history" 
interpolated into a secular history for the 
express purpose of offering spiritual guid- 

^ It is important to note that this accotmt 
of the facts is itself a theory, — an inter- 
pretation. Facts and theories of the facts 
must be disentangled by the student who 
sets himself seriously to the thought-prob- 
lems involved. The newer way of thinking 
/the facts is no more a theory than the older, 
[^ — and no less a theory. It accepts and 
exalts the same facts as supreme sources 


of guidance, — the church, the Bible, 
Christ ! It offers a competing theory with 
the conviction that the older theory is 
untenable for modem thinking, and with 
the conviction that the abiding facts them- 
selves are thus made efficient and com- 
pelling for the blessing of the life of to-day. 
In a word, this conception of the Christian 
facts ignores the arbitrary limits set by 
the older theory. The reality of the divine 
activity and revelation whether in the bib- 
lical history, in the church, or in Christ, 
are in no way questioned. But the modem 
man sees these realities in their setting in 
our human world with its relativities and 
its development. The arbitrary constants 
of the older thinking seem unreal, and the 
abrupt delimiting lines between an ''orig- 
inal" content of divine manifestation and 
meaning, and any other manifestation, 
seem tmtrue to fact. The secular and the i-- 
sacred, the divine and the human life, 
are legitimate distinctions for abstract 
thought, but not for the treatment of con- 
crete history. The plastic, fluent, growing 
nature of human life contradicts a theory 
of religion that is shaped in terms of hard 


and final lines. And the eager attitude 
toward life which longs to bring the whole, 
ftill truth of religious reality to the life 
of the present is chilled by the unreality 
and untruth of a relation to a Living God 
which must first be measured or standard- 
ized by reference to a past standard. 
Moreover, the conviction of progress as a 
distinctive characteristic of the best spiritual 
life is justified only by a theory of the facts 
which will bring the Bible and the church 
and the Christ into a present, living rela- 
tionship with society, thus making life 
potentially as great now as ever it was. 
And so the result of the newer theory is 
to rediscover the greatness of Jesus for the 
life of to-day; to recognize the value of 
the Bible as a record of spiritual reality; 
and to reexperience the life of God in the 
living church as the Holy Spirit of Guid- 

I. [The Consequences for our Conception 
of the Function of the Church and 

In the popular mind, religion and the- 
ology have grown together. The intellec- 


tual account of the religious life is indis- 
criminately identified with the life which 
it interprets. The doctrine of the divine 
love is identified with the divine fact. 
The saving power of Christ is identified 
with a given theory of salvation or of 
atonement. The processes of salvation are 
commonly identified with a rigid psycho- 
logical programme or theological process 
which is prescribed as the formula of all 
accredited personal religion. It has all 
been codified, and stamped with a certain 
sanctity and formality. The result is a 
stereotyped theology with a well-defined 
line of cleavage between the "radical" 
and the ''conservative/' the "safe" and 
the "dangerous," the "orthodox" and the 

For the student of theology, the first 
task is to discriminate between religion 
and theology, between spiritual experience 
and the intellectual account of it. Re- 
ligion is essentially a meaning, a message, 
a fact, a truth, an experience. Theology 
is the effort of the mind to explain and 
interpret this prior fact of religious life. 
Theology is always explanation, interpreta- 


tion, the work of the intellect in the service 
of the deep experiences of life. As ex- 
planation, theology makes use of the ctir- 
rent thought-forms of the time, and is 
controlled by the ruling conceptions of 
the age that formulates it. Thus while 
it is true that religion expresses the uni- 
versal fact of man's spiritual relationship 
I to God, theologies are definitely related 
to certain ages and certain races in that 
they employ thought-forms characteristic 
of those ages or those races. A given 
theology is the account which a given age 
or thinker offers of the religious problems 
encountered. A Hebrew prophet or Chris- 
tian apostle wrestles with the perennial 
problems of life. The result of his thinking 
which he offers for the guidance and in- 
spiration of his fellows becomes an in- 
spired theology because it is manifestly 
bom of a deep spiritual experience and 
insight. It inevitably bears the stamp of 
his times ; otherwise it is not a convincing 
religious interpretation. This is equally 
true of Isaiah, of Paul, and of Augustine. 
Theologies, then, must be studied with this 
relative element in mind. The student 


must understand the symbol, the concep- 
tions employed to set forth religious reality. 
This necessitates a sympathetic under- 
standing of the historic period in which the 
theology arose, and a knowledge of the influ- 
ences which entered into the life and thought 
of the age. The sacred and worthful thing 
is the spiritual life which is symbolized ; not 
the interpretation of that spiritual life, how- 
ever venerable and impressive. To accept^ 
even a great theology as the final account of 
religious truth is to substitute an intellectual 
orthodoxy for the creative moral activity of 
the spiritual life. 

The significant line of cleavage among 
theologies to-day is not that between ''con- 
servative" and "radical," nor that between 
"new" and "old" as such; but between 
the contrasted methods by which the the->- 
ology is achieved. The significant concern 
is the way the task of theology is conceived 
and pursued rather than the formulation 
offered. Any "new" theology which fails 
to see this, simply offers a new competing 
orthodoxy. The "modem-minded man" 
sees the impossibility of resting in any 
orthodoxy, and frankly and freely adjusts 


himself to the realities of life in his en- 
deavour to interpret spiritual experience. 
His mental attitude is not that of ''adopt- 
ing" or defending any historic system of 
theology, however effective for its times 
and however well reasoned. He is left 
free rather to analyze every theology that 
is offered, with a twofold purpose in mind. 
First, he seeks to understand the religious 
consciousness of the people. Second, he 
seeks to understand why this particular 
symbol was employed to express that mean- 
ing. History is against the man who re- 
gards historic creeds as "fossils." They 
are fossils in the sense that a fossil is a 
memorial of a life once within the shell. 
History refutes the man who cynically 
toys with the shell and does not feel the 
authority of the religious life of which the 
shell is an impressive memorial. Super- 
ciliousness towards outgrown theologies 
usually conceals spiritual deadness. The 
great theologies and the great creeds and 
confessions are impressive witnesses and 
indispensable guides for the faith of our 
day. They are symbols of truths and ^ 
realities and forces which have commanded 


human society from the beginning until 
now. The study of creeds should there- 
fore conform to the biological method, not 
to the method of the antiquarian. 

On the other hand, history is equally 
against the man who sets himself up as the 
champion of any orthodoxy. The relative 
element in his doctrinal statement is likely 
to conceal and defeat the ageless spiritual 
truth which it aims to set forth. Doc- 
trinal and credal tests of spiritual truth 
are unreliable measures of religious reality. 
As between the formal *' adoption" of out- 
. grown theologies and the uncomprehending 
superciliousness toward them, there is 
little to choose. Neither attitude reveals 
the spiritual discernment which must con- 
dition all vital theological interpretation. 
Belief and faith cannot be formless. In- 
telligent people have some creed. On the 
other hand, intelligent people may not 
insist upon any form of doctrine as per- 
manent and universal. The creed or the 
theology is true only so long as it ade- 
quately expresses and nourishes the spiritual 
life. Theology to-day is concerned with 
the whole history of the htiman search 



after God, with its monumental creeds 
and theologies. It seeks to understand 
sympathetically the great affirmations of 
faith ; to enter into the deepest experiences 
of otH- great spiritual leaders and teachers ; 
to comprehend why creeds and theologies 
have assumed their successive historic forms. 
It seeks then to rethink and restate the 
truth about God in a way that shall con- 
vince men and arouse their passion and 
devotion. Although we may not repeat 
the formulations of the past, the continuity 
of life and thought makes it equally im- 
possible that we should not build on the 
tested spiritual foundations. It is fatal to 
cut loose from the past. How to use the 
past — how to express the permanent mes- 
sage in altered thought- vehicles — is pre- 
cisely the critical problem. We must not 
destroy, but fulfil. The present-day 
teacher of theology is free to seek the 
guidance of all who have struggled with 
the great problems of the soul. He should 
have a broad and sympathetic comprehen- 
sion of the life of his own day, its thought- 
currents and spiritual needs. He should 
then be free — nay, he should be urgently 


impelled — to interpret the spiritual mes- 
sage afresh for his generation, offering it 
as the solution of contemporary spiritual 
problems. He should be one with the 
passionate prophets of the past in that he 
strives to mediate the eternal to men ; he 
will differ from the prophets of the past in 
that he deals with different social ideals 
and uses the speech and thought-forms of 
another age. He will teach that the great 
creeds are *'High Places" where men have 
found the Living God, and the revelation 
of spiritual reality. To reenact spiritual 
reaUty to-day, — not necessarily to repeat 
the ancient creed, — is the substance of 
true worship. We must fashion our creed 
in terms of contemporary thought for the 
direction of the faith of to-day. This will 
involve the reinterpretation of every great 
doctrine of the Christian faith in consonance 
\vith the mental and moral ideals that 
express the best life of our times. Every 
great constructive religious age has faced 
anew the abiding problems of life, and 
wrested an answer from its deepest con- 
sciousness. The result is the "inspired 
theology" of that age. Our generation 


cannot shirk the responsibility of facing 
the same problems, and of shaping otir 
confident solutions in terms of the deepest 
ctirrents of thought and life. The authori- 
tative meanings of God must be brought 
home to contemporary men in terms of 
contemporary life. 

II. The Consequences for our Conception of 
the Function of the Bible 

Just as there has been a harmful tendency 
to identify theology and religion, so there 
has been a tendency to identify the Bible 
with the fact of revelation. As the in- 
tellectual formulation of religion in doc- 
trinal statements has warped religion and 
defeated its spiritual end ; so we may trace 
a parallel tendency in the uncritical use of 
the Christian Scriptures as an account of 
spiritual truth. In place of recognizing 
the purely instrumental nature of the 
biblical record to conduct us to the true 
object of worship, we have bestowed the 
worship upon the Bible itself. We have 
thought of our religious task as studying 
to "know the Bible"; defeating the real 
end of studying to "know God." 


In all history the tendency to deify books, 
holy objects, holy places, is observable. 
Whatever has symbolized to men the pres- 
ence or message of God has been uncritically 
identified with the dread Being symbolized. 
The Vedas, the Koran, the ''Law" of the 
Hebrews, and the Christian Bible are cases 
in point. An imperfectly atrophied pagan- 
ism persists even in otir best Christian 
efforts to worship in spirit and in truth. 
The evil which Luther and the reformers, 
with true spiritual insight, inveighed against 
in the worship of ''Holy Church" has 
insidiously returned in our treatment of 
the "Holy Bible." It is worth inquiring 
whether the very phrase "Holy Bible" 
dods not create a wrong mental attitude 
— an attitude of bibliolatry — toward a 
book whose whole effort is to fix our rever- 
ence upon the only One who is holy. 

By our theories we have sought to testify 
to the transcendent spiritual worth of the 
biblical record. We aim to say that it is 
rich in spiritual ideals; that, best of all 
books, it convinces us of the reality of 
divine revelation and the meaning of it; 
and that by means of the Bible we get our 


best spiritual gtddance. The supremacy 
of the Bible, among books, as practical 
means of exhibiting the divine purpose 
and of conducting us to the best moral and 
religious insight, is not questioned. But 
this high estimate of the practical revela- 
tion value of the Bible is not tantamount 
to affirming any of the theories of the Bible 
which set it over against all other books 
as ''infallible" or "inerrant"; nor does 
it justify any language which provides 
an absolute distinction between the nature 
of the record and that of all other records. 
When we bring to bear upon this problem 
the general principles which we have been 
expounding, it releases us from all these 
false and harmful distinctions. The Bible 
becomes a collection of literature with 
human authors, and with a htiman history. 
It presents the limitations of all human 
authorship, and betrays the influences of 
history in its composition, in its assembling 
into a unity, its manuscripts, its transla- 
tions, and not least in the method of its 
use in the church. It is a record of men 
controlled in a rare degree by religious 
reality. It includes our chief record of 



Jesus Christ, the Person who was supremely 
controlled by the God-consciousness, who 
has supremely revealed God to men. These 
things are not in question. But all of 
this is not inconsistent with the conviction 
that the Bible is yet only a faithful, vera- 
cious, historical record of spiritual expe- 
rience where the spiritual understanding 
of men of succeeding ages finds the authority 
of the truth ; — except as we have super- 
imposed an intellectual theory of the mi- 
raculous uniqueness of the record which 
warps and constrains our approach to its 
meanings ! 

All of the considerations of language, 
of thought-laws, of the psychological na- 
ture, which we have passed in review, impel 
us to think the Bible record and the Bible 
revelation in relative and not absolute 
terms. It must be studied with precisely 
the presuppositions which we bring to 
other records of life. This is true, however 
transcendent the spiritual insight expressed. 
We must know the atmosphere and con- 
ditions stirrounding the making of the 
record; we must know as far as possible 
the men who produced it ; we must bring 


otir canons of rational criticism and evalua- 
tion; and we must gain spiritual insight 
therefrom by bringing our own answering 
spiritual insight. Thus by the vital pro- 
cesses of personal contact, through mean- 
ings and experiences, and not by any 
guaranteed method, the revelation comes 
to the reader of the Bible. Thus God is 
. ' ' revealed ' ' ; thus a new experience is 
"created'* ; thus the sense of divine reality 
is awakened; thus the practical guidance 
that life needs is won. 

Such a view does not challenge the facts 
touching the spiritual dynamics of the 
Bible. It simply recognizes that such me- 
chanical language as *'an infallible rule of 
faith and practice" does not fit the case, 
for the reason that our approach is personal 
and not mechanical. With the fluency 
and the freedom and the limitations of 
personal life we approach the Bible and 
find its meaning and its authority, — and 
thus its revelation. We are not coerced 
by a,ny presupposition of the uniqueness 
of the Bible, but by the subtle and irresist- 
ible acknowledgment, which our spiritual 
natures make, of the truth set forth. 


What is surplusage over this, seems to 
us clinging superstition, hurtful theories, 
offered, to be sure, with the most loyal 
intent to guard spiritual ends. This self- 
evidencing, revealing value of the Bible 
is not independent of the church, society, 
and all the truth that comes by history 
through other men. The Bible is not a 
record of a now discontinued revelation. 
The reaction of the Bible upon us is not a 
magical thing, but only expresses the faith- 
ful laws of the spiritual and the rational. 
Revelation is always socially and historically 
conditioned. Utter individualism in deal- 
ing with the Bible meanings must give 
way to a better social insight. The Bible 
must be viewed, not in a vacuum, but in 
the context of history. All traditions of 
infallibility which remove the Bible from 
the canons by which we always test life's 
meanings drop away as outworn, untrue, 
and therefore hurtful. Theories of * ' canons, ' ' 
* * inspiration, ' ' and ' * revelation, ' ' once the in- 
evitable presupposition of Bible study, lose 
most of their interest for modem students. 
The quickening of the power of spiritual 
apprehension and expression that comes to 


holy men who enter into living relations of 
prayer, can hardly be overstated. In- 
spiration is a real fact. It expresses this 
heightened sensitiveness to spirittial reality 
and truth, of which the law and condition 
is the uncompromising law of love and 
righteousness. Biblical literature is full of 
the best examples of men who spoke and 
wrote with the **open vision.'* The con- 
vincing power of their religious messages 
lies in the self -authenticating appeal of these 
messages to us. Such men speak with 
permanent authority to our spiritual natures. 
It is by no mere chance that the clearest 
generalization of this principle of revelation 
comes from the lips of the supreme Spiritual 
Seer of the ages: ** Blessed are the pure in 
heart, for they shall see God." The Bible 
is full of this God-consciousness and of the 
sure note of religious guidance. It is there- 
fore the very bread of life to the spiritually 
hungry. It is our preeminent means of 
arousing, nourishing, and instructing the 
reUgious life. But we must impose no 
theory upon the Bible which separates the 
spiritual life of that time from our own; 
or which exempts us from the universal 


conditions of prophetic insight and utter- 

Appljdng the principle of development 
and relativity to the biblical record does 
not affect the unique supremacy of 
the Bible in its practical ministry to the 
church. Its practical supremacy is tmi- 
versally conceded. It affects only our 
mental attitude toward the Book and its 
contents, as we interpret it. The tradi- 
tional attitude regards the Bible as a safe 
and authoritative guide only as we recog- 
nize some safeguarding principle, some 
irreducible absolute that distinguishes the 
Bible as a book from other books. This 
attitude, however modified, always exhibits 
some vestige of external authority as a 
necessity of religious guidance. On the 
other hand, the modem attitude distrusts 
such a safeguarding principle as irrational 
and useless, and therefore hurtful. It feels 
that the only spiritual guidance that is 
adequate is the autonomous response of 
the soul to perceived meanings. This is 
an internal response and cannot be forced 
upon us. By fact of the kinship of the 
htiman mind with the divine, we carry the 


power of response to the authority of the 
spiritual. Who speaks to our spiritual 
natures must speak with spiritual and not 
scribal authority. 

The practical consequences for exegesis 
and theology of accepting the one con- 
ception of the Bible or the other, are very 
marked. The traditional method of exege- 
sis assumes that the ** truth" is somehow 
compassed within the Bible. The process 
of revelation is identical with our scrip- 
tural account; and the process is now 
discontinued. The mental attitude is not 
that of empirically searching to discover 
the truth of the record, or the meaning 
of a given part of it. Rather, it is con- 
trolled by the presupposition that the 
whole or sum of religious truth is some- 
how here, an absolute quantity, which 
exegetical work can ferret out, and which 
it is the task of dogmatics to articulate 
into a system. This exegetical method 
always works under the constraint of cer- 
tain implicit or explicit presuppositions of 
the uniqueness of the record. The pro- 
cesses of revelation are regarded as so 
guaranteed even in its human instruments 


that the result may be a ** complete" or 
"perfect," that is, an absolute revelation. 
Even exegetes who profess to have aban- 
doned this traditional theory of the biblical 
content are yet ruled to an amazing degree 
by this tacit attitude toward their task. 
'*The Bible is the source of theology; it 
is the work of the exegete to find the truth ; 
systematic theology can only formulate 
it," — this is the exact language of one 
learned exegete. **Our theology must be 
brought to the Bible to be proved" is the 
utterance of another scholar. It is evi- 
dent that to such expounders the Bible is 
a ** Supernatural Book." 

The logical consequences of this mental 
attitude are well illustrated in history. 
It tacitly anticipates an orthodoxy, a 
standard of theological truth that shall be 
permanently valid. It assumes that the 
''absolute" contained in the Bible, perfectly 
understood, would jdeld a permanently 
authoritative theological system. In this 
view, orthodoxy is the goal of systematic 
theology, the sum of religious truth, a 
fixed point beyond which insight cannot 
go, and which reason cannot touch, since 



it is the product of revelation and not of 
reason. In opposition to this ** revealed" 
theology, "nattiral theology" has always 
been rated as inferior or inimical to religion. 
What fanaticism and dogmatism has not 
taken unassailable refuge in '*The Word" 
thus absolutely regarded ! 

Modem exegetical method, on the other 
hand, looks for no ulterior canons of in- 
terpretation, save those enforced by the 
best scientific sense in its endeavour to gain 
the human intent of the record. For no 
presuppositions arbitrarily separating the 
Bible from other records of spiritual his- 
tory are valid here. Nothing is further 
from the purpose of modem exegesis than 
mechanical programmes of revelation, charts 
of prophecy, schemes and keys and ''golden 
threads" calculated to exhibit the Bible 
as a supematuraUy guaranteed unity. The 
Bible is not regarded as a divinely-given 
text-book of religion, a supematuraUy ac- 
credited Word of God, a court of last 
appeal in matters of spiritual controversy. 
It is not a handbook of dispensations 
and eschatologies. Neither is it necessary 
to affirm any unity in the Bible save that 


of men controlled by a common spirit and 
purpose. The modem exegete is not search- 
ing for a final account of spiritual truth 
by which to standardize his own thinking. 
He is frankly seeking for the ideals and 
convictions and forms of experience which 
express the spiritual realities of the various 
religious writers and the races for which 
they spoke. He regards the writers, not 
as oracles, but as fellow-students of the 
mystery of godliness. He finds thus living 
truth and not infallible items of revealed 
information. The Bible is thus not so 
much an object of study, as a means of 
study. "Instead of being dictated by the 
Bible, a man's theology should be inspired 
within him by the Bible, or, more truly, 
inspired in him through the Bible by the 
spirit which inspired the Bible." And 
above all the student has no sense of 
seeking the finality of a now discontinued 

The revelation- value of the biblical rec- 
ord is thus not attested by any a priori 
standard, nor has ''revelation" any tech- 
nical connotations. But revelation is 
simply defined as that which is actually 


revealed of God in the spiritual history 
recorded, no matter how or where. And 
the ** testing" or ''proof" of the revelation 
is the verification which our experience 
jdelds when we in like manner, with the 
spiritual heroes of old, commit ourselves 
to righteousness and to holy ideals of 
character and service. ' ' God is no respecter 
of persons, but in every nation he that 
feareth Him and worketh righteousness, 
is accepted with Him." The Bible as a 
book has no lonely preeminence save its 
preeminent spiritual worth, its content of 
meaning. The modem exegete, discard- 
ing all arbitrary and artificial canons of 
revelation-method, believes that obedi- 
ence to the moral law is the condition of 
every spiritual perception of the divine. 
Spiritual receptivity coupled with sym- 
pathy and intellectual clearness are the 
sole canons required for the understanding 
of the divine meaning in human life. To 
enforce other presuppositions of biblical 
study is to warp the vision of the divine 
reality in life, and to make the divine 
revelation a past fact rather than a present 


III. The Consequences for our Conception 
of the Relationship of Christianity to 
Jesus Christ 

For one who avows the spiritual lordship 
of Jesus Christ, and who recognizes the 
supreme historical revelation of the divine 
in the person of Jesus Christ, there is 
likely to be a mood of disinclination for 
the task of dealing analytically with the 
Pact which somehow compels our highest 
reverence and obedience, and inspires in 
us, to the highest degree, the spirit of wor- 
ship. It is a part of the empirical data 
which we must not neglect, that the im- 
mediate and instinctive effect of contact 
with Jesus Christ has been to awaken the 
profoundest religious response coupled with 
the desire to call others to a like contact 
and a like response. Not analysis, but 
evangelism, is the mood which expresses 
the reaction upon men of intimate contact 
with the Pounder of Christianity. 

On the other hand, the task of seeking 
the rationale of the supreme experience of 
the Christian life cannot be escaped. Wit- 
nesses to this are the ever multipljdng 


essays in the Christological problem. It 
is surely better to approach the task with 
some appreciation of its practical magni- 
tude than to leave it in the hands of 
theorists for whom the problem has a false 
simplicity or merely an academic interest. 
Moreover, our tribute to the supremacy 
of Christ in history is not complete until 
the account of the intellect has come to its 
best. Not abjectness, but eager inquiry, 
seems to have been the attitude of mind 
most acceptable to Jesus Himself. 

When we approach the actual problem 
of how we shall think the relationship of 
Jesus Christ to our ethical and religious 
guidance, we find it already entangled with 
many theories. Many of these are 
naively held or are determined by the 
instinctive reverence which ignores all 
rational canons. And it is significant that 
the most dogmatic and intolerant of all 
interpretations are offered by those who 
profess to have no theory, but only ''Christ '* 
or the ''Simple Gospel." One learns to 
distrust this attitude of mind which indis- 
criminately confuses fact and interpretation, 
and tacitly denies to thoughtful Chris- 



tianity the right to rest its reverence upon 
an intelligible basis. In most of the ortho- 
dox conceptions of Christ it has been felt 
that here at least a static interpretation 
can be carried through. It has been al- 
leged that here in Christ the idea of an 
absolute measure of human life can be 
found. According to this type of inter- 
pretation, we have here a perennially valid 
standard that needs no revision, no inter- 
pretation. It is enough to ' ' see Jesus only." 

The merit of this insistent claim lies in 
its intention to exalt Jesus Christ rather 
than in any success in showing how Jesus' 
leadership is actually effected. When it 
comes to concrete guidance, we are agreed 
that in the realm of spiritual life and 
thought Jesus is the supreme leader and 
teacher. Spiritual authority for the race 
centres in this supreme spiritual Person. 
We bring conduct and theology alike to 
Jesus Christ for their testing. But how 
does He test them and offer spiritual 
guidance in concrete life? That is the 

In the first place, it is immensely signifi- 
cant that by common consent every type 


of enlightened ethics and spiritual teaching 
tries to gain the authority of Jesus Christ. 
He is instinctively recognized as the spirit- 
ual colossus of our human worid. As 
stellar systems obey their astronomical 
centre, so, independent of all theories, do 
ethical systems swing into the power of 
this supreme spiritual dynamic. The spirit- 
ual primacy of Jesus is never in question ; 
but the way of conceiving Jesus and the 
manner of making His acknowledged pri- 
macy complete and effective is not clear. 
Can we by analysis show the real dimen- 
sions of experience in this matter of Chris- 
tian leadership, indicating the limitations 
of typical theories and pointing to the 
true nature of the power which gives Jesus 
Christ His spiritual mastery and thus makes 
Him the spiritual centre of our htiman 
world? This will involve the rejection of 
all mechanical and magical accounts of 
Christ's place in human life, as well as all 
accounts which are but survivals of an age 
of myth and superstition. Christ's actual 
place of power in experience and history 
is the fact which we seek to expound. Our 
instrument in testing the dimensions and 


significance of this unchallenged experi- 
ence is the commonly accepted historical, 
psychological, and ethical insight that scien- 
tific study puts at our disposal. We can 
here only outline the nature of the inquiry 
and the conclusion. 

I. We can rest in no mythological or 
supematuralistic account of Jesus' rela- 
tionship to life. 

Perhaps nowhere is the confusion of 
religious fact with theological explanation 
more in evidence than in our Christological 
conceptions. Nowhere does the uncritical 
use of language more easily betray us into 
affirmations which, while satisfjdng our 
moral loyalty, yet violate our scientific 
consciousness. Thus the vivid experiences 
which express our personal and ethical 
reaction to Jesus' leadership are often ac- 
counted for in the most realistic fashion 
with little thought of their incongruity. 
It is partly this realism in psychology and 
partly our proneness to make metaphysics 
out of metaphorical language which has 
led to a mechanical accotmt of Christ 
as somehow inhabiting our individual ter- 
ritory of experience, and influencing or 


coercing us by sheer impact. The idea 
of ''possession" was a common one among 
the ancients. An individtial might be ' ' pos- 
sessed" either by a good or an evil ''spirit." 
That is, the spirit was localized and con- 
ceived as actually residing within the in- 
dividual. Both the materialistic and the 
mythological reference of such an explana- 
tion of psychological and ethical data for- 
bid its employment to-day in a serious sense. 
Yet the vivid language of Scripture speak- 
ing of Christ "in us," or "indwelling," so 
graphically describes Christian realities that 
it is easy to be led astray by the language. 
A crude theory thus becomes identified with 
a blessed and undeniable fact. When this 
is done, there is always danger of the ex- 
cesses of ignorant fanaticism, or a tendency 
to promote an unreal "experience" as the 
mark of true religion. Only a better under- 
standing of the essential spiritual realities 
involved can save us from this folly. The 
reality testified to by the best religious 
consciousness is indeed that of personal 
"fellowship with God through our Lord 
Jesus Christ." The mode of conceiving 
such personal fellowship, and the mystery 


of the consciousness of God, are matters 
for oiir thought, but not for dogmatism or 
undisciplined imagination. ''Christ liveth 
in me" is the vivid language of religious 
experience, and must not be made to jdeld 
a metaphysics of psychology. Generally 
speaking, the mystery of the religious re- 
lationship is that of all personal relations. 
The religious fact is to be cherished. But 
crude mythological representations of per- 
sonal relationships appeal to the imagi- 
nation without satisfjdng the scientific 

The ethical quality of Christian expe- 
rience conceived thus in terms of miracle 
or mythology, and not in terms of our 
normal moral realities, will always be under 
suspicion. Fanaticism always lurks where 
the vivid conception of a religious "expe- 
rience" tends to supersede the ethical and 
spiritual conditions of experience. Our con- 
ception of Jesus Christ and of the religious 
experience mediated through Him, must 
be capable of assimilation to our best 
human realities and our highest convictions 
of religion. 

Popular evangelism has often given cur- 


rency to a form of Christolatry which re- 
sults in a Jesus-ctiltus rather than in the 
establishing of the great fundamental veri- 
ties of reUgion. Any interpretation of 
Jesus Christ which obscures His own su- 
preme emphasis upon His Father God, fails 
to express the " mind of Christ." His pas- 
sion to reveal His Heavenly Father to men 
condemns the methods of those who would 
make the historical Jesus the centre of our 
human worship. And the sentimental or 
emotional hymnology which expresses this 
crude Christolatry can but cheapen or ob- 
scure the great reUgious ideals that con- 
trolled Jesus Christ and the issues which 
He taught as fundamental for His followers. 
This superstitious regard for Jesus, in the 
name of holy reverence, can only receive 
correction by a more discriminating grasp 
of religious essentials, and a rational re- 
gard for the scientific factors which con- 
dition the problem. ''Worship God" was 
Jesus' counsel to those whose worship 
was not directed to the Object of His 
own passionate devotion — the Heavenly 
Father ! 

2. Jesus as a perfect and universally 


valid pattern for human conduct is not an 
adequate account of His spiritual primacy. 

This type of explanation has always a 
distinctly ethical emphasis, and thus a 
wholesome moral ministry. It regards 
Jesus as the one Example in history of a 
tmiversally valid pattern to be copied by 
every one who would live a perfect life. 
The function of every individual Christian, 
then, is faithful imitation. 

It is first of all to be noted that this 
conception of Jesus' place in Christianity 
has as its corollary a method of Bible study 
controlled by the search for a detailed 
picture of Jesus' life and teaching. The 
tendency is to magnify every statement 
and word as a fragment of the Perfect 
Pattern compassed by the New Testament 
account. The effort is to ''restore" the 
perfect picture that inheres in the Scrip- 
tures, and which the process of the centuries 
has marred. *' Back to the Christ of the 
Gospels" has proved an inspiring shib- 
boleth for Bible study. This has, however, 
often resulted in unrealities of exegesis 
and undue emphasis upon texts and pas- 
sages. It is an ideal of Bible study which 


easily falls prey to literalisms and other 
mechanical fallacies which obscure the large 
spiritual ideals. 

This latter fact itself is a serious arraign- 
ment of the imitation method of regarding 
Jesus' leadership. But the real condemna- 
tion of the ''Perfect Standard" method 
of regarding Jesus' relationship to Christian 
life and conduct lies in the fact that such 
a method, unqualifiedly adopted, is not 
capable of furnishing the leadership that 
personal life requires, and does not express 
the true moral fact. 

In the matter of conduct, the abstract 
notion of a Perfect Man has hatmted our 
search for a universally valid example in 
Christ. A better knowledge of personality 
makes it perfectly apparent that the search 
for uniformity is impracticable. In the 
first place it violates the law of individuality 
with its endlessly varied ways of expressing 
in conduct the ideals of personality. To 
impress a given type or pattern upon human 
conduct would be to stifle the spirit of free 
self-expression which lies at the bottom of 
all moral character. All great personalities 
help and teach their fellows, but the stimu- 


lus that awakens original response is a 
higher form of guidance than the imitation 
of any example. In the case of Jesus' 
leadership preeminently, the power of His 
transcendent personality stirs the deepest 
currents of personal power in us and 
awakens the spirit of personal response. 
The value of this regenerative experience 
of the church in its relation to Jesus Christ 
is largely in the spirit and ideals which 
such a Jesus-centred ethics arouses in us. 
The follower of Jesus is "bom from above," 
and becomes a "new creature" in Jesus 
Christ. The inward spirit communicated 
is something incommensurable with even 
a perfect outward imitation. It is creative 
rather than imitative. 

In truth, the mattet* of religious guidance 
does not call for patterns or for rules, but 
for something very much higher. To say 
"Do as Jesus would do in your place" is 
not as concrete a principle as it seems, for 
the very problem of what Jesus would do 
under given circumstances is a problem* 
which we cannot come to agreement upon, 
since there is so much in life that is relative 
and changing. Precisely what would Jesus 



do if he were a lawyer, or doctor, or merchant, 
or teacher, or working-man, or city mayor, 
with a setting in our modem life? Pre- 
cisely what course would He pursue in 
dealing with our characteristic social and 
economic problems ? The question cannot 
be directly and definitely settled to our 
uniform satisfaction. The attempt to quote 
Scripture as furnishing an infallible pattern 
of conduct soon proves futile. Moreover, 
for the thoughtful man or woman the 
question is not, after all, "What would 
Jesus do in my place?" Rather it is the 
problem. What ought I to do under given 
definite circumstances? It is a problem 
that cannot be finally and infallibly settled 
by quoting texts and precedents, even when 
they deal with Jesus' words and example. 
For principles and insights and ideals — 
a right spirit — are the deepest conditions 
of personal guidance. The value of the 
concrete Example of Jesus in the Gospels 
is inestimable; but until we lay hold of 
the very Spirit and Power — the inner 
life — that produced the Example, we can- 
not determine the contemporary form of 
Christianity, dealing with our characteristic 


problems and our characteristic social 

This pattern type of ethics, dealing with 
Jesus, proves inadequate at three points: 
I. It fails to reckon with the fact that no 
complete accoimt of Jesus' conduct can be 
had, and consequently no " perfect picture" 
of human life. 2. It fails to see that such 
an example could not in any case be trans- 
ferable as completely normative for living 
situations. 3. In short, it fails to supply 
the creative spiritual insight and dynamic 
that personal life needs for ethical mastery 
and achievement. It does not fathom the 
complexity of the human need. 

We are thus driven to a deeper account 
of the fimction of Jesus Christ in His re- 
lationship to the church. His deepest 
ministry is to the inner life, in awakening 
the spirit and creating a new spiritual 
attitude toward life, — an attitude which 
shall rest upon the same secure and con- 
fident basis as His own tmhindered realiza- 
tion of the spiritual world. In short, 
Jesus' supreme ftmction in His relationship 
to His disciples is not that of a Mediator 
who always stands between us and the 


Sotirce of spiritual life, but rather a Media- 
tor who leads us to the very Source itself. 
Christian living is not second-hand, but 
first-hand contact with the Living Father 
of Life. To "follow Jesus" in this sense 
is not mere imitation — "walking in His 
steps." Jesus' meaning is rather "Follow 
Me into this deep experience of spirituality, 
of contact with the Source of Life which 
shall be as a Spring of water within you, 
springing up into everlasting life." This 
describes the fundamental reality of spirit- 
ual experience where personality exercises 
highest authority over personality. Jesus 
Christ becomes the supreme Saviour of 
men in thus opening the very springs of 
spiritual life. Christ is Spirit, and not 
pattern. Imitative Christianity fails; crea- 
tive Christianity conquers. 

A student of the Bible controlled by 
this large insight into Jesus' significance 
for human conduct will search the Scrip- 
tures which testify of Jesus with a some- 
what diflEerent spirit and method from the 
one controlled by the tacit assimiption of 
a perfect model or precedent for every 
conceivable duty or sittiation. One is 


seeking a spirit, the other a standard. The 
static account of Jesus must give place 
to the realities of spiritual and ethical 
experience, eagerly appropriating from Je- 
sus the very spirit and insight which were 
the source of His supreme mastery over 
life. The quest for Christian uniformity 
gives place to the quest for true Christian 
unity, in which loyalty to the spirit of 
Jesus Christ shall be the significant concern. 
The Christian ideal of the Saviourhood 
of Jesus Christ as elastic and progressive, 
finds insistent emphasis in our age at two 
important points in the work of the church. 
First, in dealing with the characteristic 
social and industrial problems that loom 
so large in our day, this conception of 
Christ's leadership alone can save society 
for the church. Any stereotjrped Christian 
standard fails. The relativities of speech 
and thought and Uf e must be given recog- 
nition in the form of Christianity which is 
to conquer the modem world and the 
world of the future. We pointed out in the 
preceding chapter that moral realities grow 
out of given living sittiations, and do not 
exist in the form of absolute standards to 


be endlessly repeated. A guaranteed rule 
of action contradicts life's freedom. A 
rigid programme means the defeat of the 
chtirch. But a confident conception of 
Christ's spirit freely guiding the recon- 
structing and regenerating forces of the 
social organism is the earnest of the ulti- 
mate salvation of society. The life of our 
generation and of every other has certain 
original developments, and the Christianity 
that is to understand and save this life 
must be capable of infinite adaptation. 
Christ can be preached as the salvation 
of society to-day only as we can make 
His spirit live in the concrete forms of 
to-day's Ufe, and only as we can reveal 
that spirit as the regenerating power that 
will solve the cr3ring needs of life. The 
profound social currents of to-day will 
not heed Christ, nor *'see" Him, until He 
is revealed as the personal Spirit who 
understands these social currents and who 
has the heaUng remedy. Our characteristic 
social problems must be seen "in Christ" 
just as convincingly as the men of His own 
day saw their moral and spiritual problems 
through His eyes. In the changed con- 


ditions and ideals of life we must preach the 
Christ who as sympathetically and authori- 
tatively fathoms our life as the Jesus of 
Galilee fathomed the life of His day. The 
" larger Christ " — the Living Christ — will 
rebuke and teach and save the complex 
life of our generation and of every other. 
Jesus is Spirit — the supreme Spirit in his- 
tory. He is capable of reincarnation in every 
legitimate type of human development. 

The other point of critical need of rein- 
terpreting the Saviourhood of Jesus Christ 
is in dealing with urgent world-problems 
that press for solution. Races of men, 
civilizations, world-movements, are con- 
ditioning the religious problem as never 
before, and call for statesmanlike solution. 
No stereotyped conception of religion can 
provide for the potencies of this develop- 
ing life. No missionary programme, not 
dominated by breadth of vision, can com- 
mend Christ convincingly to awakening 
civilizations. No Occidental Christ can save 
an Oriental race. The spirit of the Christ 
must be perceived through the tempera- 
ments and types of races to be evangelized. 
" What is Christianity" is a question to be 


asked with renewed earnestness by con- 
secrated Christian leaders. And the answer 
will be found only as the marvellous mag- 
nitude and versatility of the Spirit of 
Jesus Christ so fills us that we shall lay 
aside the limitations with which a loving 
tradition has clothed Him, and see Him 
through the eyes of ''alien" races. We 
too often forget that the Christ of our 
Western Christianity is the Christ whose 
Spirit was incarnated in the form of a 
S5nian civilization, but whose Spirit we 
have won and reincarnated in terms of 
the Occident. We must grant to every 
race this privilege of finding the imiversal 
Christ and of expressing His spirit and in- 
terpreting it in forms of life which may not 
indeed assimilate to our racial type. Every 
nation and tongue and type must learn to 
know Him by gaining His outlook upon life 
and His very spirit. He must be "crowned 
with many crowns," — this spiritual Master 
of Life. We shall eventually witness the 
Spirit of Christ equally at home in the 
speech, and dress, and habits of thought 
and life of all nations. Our Gospel will 
come back to us enriched with new mean- 


ings which our limited vision never per- 

3. The relationship of Christian thought 
to Jesus Christ. 

The preceding discussion of Christ's re- 
lationship to Christianity has dealt chiefly 
with matters of conduct and life. The 
static method of relating Christ to life 
fails here. And it is not otherwise in the 
realm of faith and belief. We cannot 
bring our doctrines to Christ as the ab- 
solute oracle in the world of spiritual 
truth. In short, Christian theology is 
not capable of "proof" by the utterances 
of Jesus Christ, though it is to be tested 
by His spirit. 

It is scarcely necessary to point out that 
the same considerations which outline Jesus' 
authority for conduct, show the spiritual 
nature of His relationship to our thinking. 
He is not an oracular revealer of spiritual 
truths, but He is Himself the Spirit of truth, 
— moral personality at its best, gaining and 
communicating spiritual knowledge in ways 
commensurate with our own spiritual ex- 
perience. Therefore Christian theology is 
not constructed out of supematurally re- 



vealed items of truth, nor btiilt upon ex- 
cathedra utterances of Jesus as divine 
Son of God. But a Christian doctrine is 
that form of belief produced in a given 
civilization by the spirit of Jesus Christ 
incarnated in terms of the rational and 
spiritual development of that people. The 
best Christian form of faith is that which 
is produced by the spirit of Christ working 
in men conditioned by the rational and 
spiritual atmosphere of their times. Jesus 
himself regarded His teaching and spirit 
as ''seed'' to bring forth fruit. Our best 
Christian doctrines must be those forms of 
belief which that seed has produced in 
His faithful followers. For Christian doc- 
trines, thus conceived, there can be no 
mechanical "proof" or absolutely guar- 
anteed authority; but the verification of 
Christian doctrine must be sought in the 
best Christian consciousness, faithfully em- 
ploying those tests of truth which express 
the ethical and rational standards of the 
race and times. 

With this conception of the elastic na- 
ture of spiritual truth it is evident that the 
older method of imposing ready-made or- 


thodoxies upon civilizations to be evangel- 
ized must be modified. The missionary 
preaches Jesus Christ — His spirit and char- 
acter in terms of His life and teaching — 
and the religious interpretation of life and 
the world thus awakened in India and 
China and Japan will be as truly Christian 
as that which has grown up in the church 
of the Western world. But it will exhibit 
certain fimdamental contrasts to our Oc- 
cidental interpretations. The spiritual and 
rational and temperamental outlook of 
the races will all demand expression in the 
religious interpretation which vitally ex- 
presses their religious need and ministry. 
That Jesus Christ, preached as ethical 
spirit, moral personality, has tmiversal and 
inexhaustible power to evoke the same 
spirit of love and faith which dwelt in Him, 
is our conviction. That He will thus 
reveal the deepest truths about God is 
equally certain. But in thus becoming 
the world's spiritual Master and Saviour, 
He is not a superhuman oracle of truth, 
but an Inspirer of divine truth. Inspira- 
tion and not dictation is the ideal of all 
high spiritual revelation. 


Thus the standardizing of theology be- 
comes an impossible ideal. But confident 
belief about spirittial reality springs into 
life everywhere that the spirit of Christ 
finds free expression. Contact with spirit- 
ual reality is the ground of our conviction 
and assurance. The life produced in us 
is the justification of our belief. The 
spiritual experience of fellowship with Jesus 
Christ is the ultimate condition of Christian 
certainty. This inner moral experience 
yields a fearless attitude toward life which 
trusts the forms of life's ideals to construe 
for the understanding the nature of spirit- 
ual truth. The goal of Christian thinking 
thus conceived is not dogmatics, but the 
complete spiritual authority of Jesus Christ. 
We evoke His authority not to justify our 
form of faith, but rather to justify the faith 
itself which insistently clamours for reason- 
able expression. It must be left to the 
scientific and philosophic consciousness to 
shape the persuasive contemporary form 
of Christian faith. 

The Peril of a Safe Theology 

The multiplication of safety appliances 
for the protection of human life is a marked 
characteristic of our age. No humane 
ministry to society is more consistently 
and forcefully urged than the providing of 
automatic safety devices to supplant the 
older method of reliance upon personal 
attention and intelligence. "Such acci- 
dents will happen until we eliminate the 
whole human element by means of auto- 
matic provisions," observed a railroad op- 
erator after a recent disaster. He fol- 
lowed the statement with an informing 
discussion concerning the installing of 
safety appliances on his own line of road, 
in response to the demands of the public 
conscience. There is always a position and 
a premium for the inventive genius who can 
substitute for fallible human attention an 
automatic response that works infallibly. 
The disabled switchman, the drtmken 
watchman, the recreant employee, can be 




more and more dispensed with as his ser- 
vices are suppKed by the mechanical device 
which never sleeps nor drinks whiskey, 
and whose integrity does not call for any 
subjective processes. Lives of employees 
and of patrons by the thousands are thus 
guarded and saved every year. And the 
principle is so humane and sotmd that we 
do not propose to halt while inventive 
skill is tmexhausted or the reluctant em- 
ployer remains unptmished. 

Our object here is not to question the 
beneficence of these things; we are con- 
cerned rather with a by-product. What 
are the moral consequences of safety de- 
vices — their effect upon character? and 
what are the limitations of mechanical 
safety in the complex and responsible 
activities of human achievement? Does 
the elevator man become a more or a less 
responsible person when he feels that not 
his own skill and attention, but an auto- 
matic device, stands between his passengers 
and disaster ? Do railway employees, when 
relieved of personal responsibility, develop 
the types of character that tmder the old 
system fitted them to advance as con- 


ductors, engineers, and managing officers? 
What is the effect upon a board of directors 
of knowing that they have provided ''every 
device for the safety and comfort of their 
patrons"? In short, does the movement 
contribute to responsible character, or does 
it not ? 

These questions are not asked from a 
wholly academic point of view. I would not 
curtail practical efforts to reduce risks by 
safety appliances, but I am apprehensive of 
the results of safety produced at the cost 
of all htiman sentiment, and I raise the ques- 
tion whether in the long run it is not possible 
for the impersonal and the practical to 
defeat its own ends and suffer a practical 
revenge. For in the end the control of 
automatism is in the hands of personality, 
and real safety is secured for us only through 
the sentiment which is developed in the life 
of the men who own and control automatic 

The question is of course only a special 
aspect of the problem which the ideals of 
mechanism always create when they invade 
the realm of the personal. Wherever au- 
tomatism carries its ideals too far, something 


very precious and f tindamental in human 
life is threatened. In the boy set to watch 
the primitive steam-engine, who discovered 
that he could so attach the levers that they 
would operate the steam-valves mechani- 
cally and thus dispense with his attention 
to them, we have the symbol of a racial 
experience quite as fateful in its potential 
influence upon htmian kind as the experi- 
ence symbolized by the venerable tradition 
of the forbidden fruit and its resultant 

As the aim of this discussion is to inves- 
tigate and not to dogmatize, we shall con- 
tent ourselves with indicating certain points 
where the demand for automatic safety 
threatens to obscure or defeat some of the 
finer issues of life. 

In a thoughtful piece of literature, '' The 
Preliminaries," contributed by Miss Comer 
to the Atlantic Monthly for October, 1910, 
we have a convincing illustration, in terms 
of life, of the universal demand for auto- 
matic safety, and its intrinsic weakness. 
The story deals with the fortunes of two 
lovers who are held back from the constmi- 
mation of their hearts' desire by prudential 


considerations urged on both sides. Fond 
parents, admitting the obvious fitness of the 
marriage, at the same time poison the at- 
mosphere of the romance as well as destroy 
the peace of their own lives by dread appre- 
hensions of possible miscarriage of plans 
or fatal taint or weakness of character. 
The objections raised are not definite and 
positive, but are only formulations of the 
general lack of certainty involved in all 
dealing with the future. They tacitly de- 
mand guaranteed insurance against all 
possible evil before life can be sanctioned 
and accepted as blessed. The apprehen- 
sions are aggravated by a grim tragedy of 
justice that has overtaken the head of one 
family and embittered life. The natural 
consequence is that all concerned are living 
on the verge of nervous prostration. All 
see life's problems through morbid eyes and 
with fretful spirits. All save one. The 
father of the woman, a convict behind prison 
walls, has learned in suffering and medita- 
tion the true philosophy of life — the phi- 
losophy of life's inevitable risks. He re- 
verses the nervous prudential counsel of the 
others, with their nameless fear for the 


futtire. The highest point of the dramatic 
movement of the story is his counsel ad- 
dressed to the youth, who visits him in 
prison on the delicate mission of asking 
for the hand of his daughter : 

"They haven't the point of view/ It is life that 
is tiie great adventure. Not love, not marriage, 
not business. They are just chapters in the book. 
The main thing is to take the road fearlessly, — 
to have courage to live one's life. . . . That is 
the great word. Don't you see what ails your 
father's point of view, and my wife's ? One wants 
absolute security in one way for Ruth; the other 
wants absolute security in another way for you. 
And security — why it's just the one thing a human 
being cannot have, the thing that's the damnation 
of him if he gets it ! The reason it is so hard for 
a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is that 
he has that false sense of security. To demand it 
just disintegrates a man. I don't know why, — 
it does. . . . The mastery of life comes with the 
knowledge of our power to endure. That's it. 
You are safe only when you can stand everything 
that can happen to you. Thus and thus only ! 
Endurance is the measure of the man. . . . Cour- 
age is security. There is no other kind." 

Very like in kind is the philosophy ut- 
tered in a ''Sketch of Life on the Road" 
by a wandering philosopher: 


" How can any man look for true adventure in life 
if he always knows to a certainty where his next 
meal is coming from? In a world so completely 
dominated by goods, by things, by possessions, 
and smothered by security, what fine adventure is 
left to a man of spirit save the adventure of 

Now I am not an apologist for the con- 
vict, nor for the picturesque, ecclesiastical, 
mendicant saint ; nor yet for the less pic- 
turesque and unecclesiastical mendicant 
sinner. But the point of view which regards 
life as an adventure, emphasizes a principle 
of faith — faith and strength and insight 
bom of the needs of the moment — which 
seems to me a neglected factor in many of 
our closed and rigid systems of interpreta- 
tion of life. For every specific spiritual 
situation as it arises there is a new insight 
bom of the new experience. No standard- 
ized interpretation expresses the whole truth 
of such an hour. Like the manna of the 
wilderness, if we try to preserve our spiritual 
truth for days ahead, it spoils on our hands. 
Faith is the only mental attitude that over- 
comes the world — not security ! The volun- 
tary acceptance of life seems somehow to 
precede and condition our proofs and cer- 


tainties. We have in the citations given, 
if I mistake not, recognition of the subtle 
evil involved in an excessive demand to 
surround life with safety devices. Security, 
whether purchased by riches or rank or 
rationalism or other automatic means of 
safety, tends to create a sense of ease which 
is the menace of the soul. We must work 
out our salvation in any realm, if we want 
the distinctive reward of that realm. Cer- 
tain personal capacities and creative moral 
insights and S3niipathies shrink and shrivel 
when they are oversubsidized by external 

One effect of the demand for automatic 
safety is seen in the history of the mightiest 
and most precious impulse of life, the re- 
ligious nature. The larger half of Christen- 
dom is organized on the principle that we 
need an infallible guidance for life; that 
religion, with its issues of eternal life and 
death, is too fateful a matter to be trusted 
to the limitations of our hard- won wisdom ; 
that here at least we must know before we 
act. We are aU familiar with the mechani- 
cal logic by which J. H. Newman satisfied 
his soul that there must be somewhere an 


automatic safety device for religious hearts 
longing for certainty. That logic led New- 
man into the only ecclesiastical fellowship 
which guaranteed infallible guidance. The 
guarantee of safety first, life and trust 
afterward, — millions of people nominally 
allege this principle as fundamental and 
inevitable in Ufe's deepest concerns. Of 
course, history alone can vindicate or dis- 
prove its merits, and the history is open to 
us all. 

On the other hand, the Protestant wing 
of Christendom is in nominal revolt against 
external religious guarantees, and avows 
its purpose to rest life upon faith, which 
shall win its own certainties. But alas for 
the logic of Protestantism, there is an un- 
formulated dialectic in human nature which 
leads straight back to the safety device. 
A htmdred years or so after the Protestant 
movement had challenged the automatic 
safety of the Catholic church in the name 
of ''salvation by faith," the Bible appeared 
in the light of ''an infallible rule of faith 
and practice"; and either avowedly or 
nominally that is the r61e which the Chris- 
tian Scriptures play in the religious life of 


the multitude to-day. We will have a 
safety contrivance to guard personal life in 
its deepest issues. We will have Authority 
as the highest court of appeal. Either 
Holy Church or Holy Bible must furnish 
a principle of infallible seciuity. The con- 
sequences for Protestant theology of thus 
dealing with the Bible as a "supernatural 
revelation" — an authoritative text-book 
— and not as a transcript of the realities of 
htmian experience in its religious develop- 
ment, have been immense. Surely the the- 
ologies of the future will trust the revela- 
tions of God that came to the moral heroes 
of old, even though we test their knowledge 
of spiritual things by the same psychologi- 
cal and epistemological canons that we 
bring to our own religious experiences. 

We have protested against the flaunting 
of guaranteed salvation announced over 
church doors : ''Plena indulgentia qiwtidie.'' 
That smacks of commercialism and legalism. 
But many who shudder at the principle 
thus brazenly published, offer to furnish 
the same brand of safety in subscriptions 
to various orthodoxies, and thus to bring 
into life a sense of peace and sectirity. 


For our constituency demand both security 
and large returns before they will invest. 
This is the underlying philosophy of every 
''safe" orthodoxy. 

Again, in the very citadel of faith, where 
religion professes to achieve the personal 
assurance of unseen realities, this demand 
for independent, safeguarding principles 
haimts us. With curious infidelity to the 
personal confidence in a supreme living 
Spirit, which is the essence of the best re- 
ligion, the church has yet cherished the 
intellectual ''proof" of God as a buttress 
and bulwark of her faith, and we have felt 
secure only when the burden of our certainty 
was seen to rest, not upon faith, but upon 
an independent and universal basis. The 
"direct and fundamental proofs" have 
thus tended to supplant the faith upon 
which we once felt that true religion should 
rest. The moral consequences of theistic 
proofs have not been more salutary than 
those of the safety of infallible guidance, 
whether supplied by a church or a book. 
Thus one keen critic says : 

"It has grown clear to all thinkers, first, that the 
God and soul of religion cannot be proved with 


proofs that compel the assent of the intellect ; and, 
secondly, that by such proofs there is, in a serious 
degree, the destruction of the values which are 
sought to be demonstrated.'* 

Now faith does not come at the suggestion 
of distrust, but of trust. A safety device 
here seems an affront both to reason and to 
faith. The intellect must indeed offer its 
fortifying reasons, but the prior and deeper 
reason of faith takes precedence of all spe- 
cific reasons. In living contact with spirit- 
ual reality the soul finds the irrefutable 
argument for God, and any proof which 
absolves the soul from this original vision 
of God weakens the case which it seeks to 
establish. No rationalism can take the 
place of the Moral Venture. 

This study of the consequences of a prin- 
ciple might be carried into nearly every de- 
partment of life, for religion is not alone in 
this error. The field of education is like- 
wise infested with the fallacy of orthodox 
methods, mechanical devices to guarantee 
that every child shall be pedagogically 
' ' saved. ' ' The ' ' system ' ' sometimes stimu- 
lates and sometimes paralyzes the individual 
response of the ' ' Child." In the field of law, 


too, justice is often defeated rather than es- 
tablished by professional orthodoxies ; while 
in politics, machine methods are widely- 
employed to relieve the individual of per- 
sonal attention and responsibility, — to the 
demoralization of the citizen. These all 
illustrate the tendency to apply mechanical 
standards to life, to secure automatic 
safety, and to this extent to imperil and 
defeat the higher spiritual achievements 
of the race. The best condition of such 
achievement is the absence of these very- 
safeguards and certainties, which are in no 
way wnmg out of the deep experiences of 
life; for the law of the spiritual is faith. 
No absolutions or indulgences are known 
to the moral law. The paradoxical truth! 
is that every man must bear his own burden, ' 
even though he must also bear the burdens 
of others. The certainties of spiritual real- 
ity do not rest upon independent ground, 
but are conditioned by our own moral re- 
sponse to life ; and the highest spiritual dis- 
cernment is not merely imitative, it is 
creative. The interpreter of religion, of 
law, or of pedagogy must be something 
more than a copyist. Even a lawyer ought 


to be a prophet; but a theologian or a 
teacher must be one. 

Now when in our preaching and teaching 
we so far disregard this principle of faith 
and freedom that we tacitly standardize 
our theology, we do so in response to the 
demand for an automatic safety device. 
This substitution of a mechanical theology 
for a spiritual is based upon a fallacious 
theory of knowledge, and it works harm. 
It is founded upon a bad philosophy and a 
shallow analysis of the whole problem of 
knowledge. For when our interpretation 
of spiritual truth is conditioned upon all 
sides by theories of sacred history, inspira- 
tion, infallible sources, divine tokens, re- 
vealed truth, and safe standards of doctrine, 
we virtually so subsidize our thinking about 
spiritual reality that a healthy spirituality 
and a stalwart theology are hardly possible. 
A really safe theology, like a safe chemistry, 
is one which faces the facts of life and their 
laws, and gives the profoundest account of 
them of which the mind is capable. It 
recognizes that the law of life is growth, 
and asks no other guarantee than that of 
faithful living and faithful thinking. 


We have thus far dealt chiefly with the 
intrinsic fallacy of the safety method in re- 
ligious interpretation. But it would not be 
hard to show, on the practical side, that a 
mechanical ideal in place of a spiritual ideal 
of religious interpretation is a menace to 
religious effectiveness. We may here 
simply enumerate two or three points at 
which a ''safe theology" imperils the in- 
terests of ''the Gospel which is committed 
to our trust.'' 

The Christianizing of the Orient in this 
missionary age reqtiires a recognition of 
types of mind and types of meaning which 
a rigid theological method does not recog- 
nize. If Jesus Christ and His message of 
God's love is to dominate and save Eastern 
civilizations with their millions of needy 
people, these peoples must be allowed to rein- 
terpret our blessed gospel in forms of life and 
thought which our orthodoxies do not know. 
We must recognize the heterodox ways in 
which God is already manifesting Himself 
in the hearts of these people. We imperil 
a world message by provincial thinking. 
"There are diversities of operations, but 
it is the same God which worketh all in 


all." Does this not mean that the God who 
works in Islam and in Buddhism is the 
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ? It may 
well be that the truth of God and His Son 
will come back to us from the East with 
new depths of insight which our formula- 
tions never perceived. No rigid orthodoxy 
can deal sympathetically with this racial 

Again, a formal and safe theology is in- 
effective in dealing with the marvellous 
developments of ethical, social, economic, 
and industrial life about us. Christianity 
and the church are, measurably at least, 
losing the most splendid opportunity that 
history has offered to spiritualize life and 
bring to it the vision and the power of God 
in Christ, because we insist that the pro- 
found modem movements must conform 
to otir orthodox interpretation of Chris- 
tianity formulated under the influence 
of other social ideals. Thank God for 
prophetic men in the ministry who get 
their vision of God and the spiritual mean- 
ing of Christ in the life of to-day ; whose 
measure of the divine revelation and re- 
demption is not a safe orthodoxy, but the 


whole range of human need, the whole 
development of human life. Thank God 
for ministers of Christ who see that the 
social life of to-day is as much God's as the 
social Ufe of the past; who believe that 
God speaks to us and leads us as directly 
and authoritatively in our thought and life 
as He has spoken in the thought which we 
have inherited from the past, so inspiringly 
set forth in our Bibles. When we face this 
truth squarely, we shall no longer raise 
such issues as ''Christianity or sociaUsm," 
and ''Christianity or economic reform," 
but our Christianity will be seen to include 
all these problems and the principles for 
their solution as well. Christ will still be 
seen as our spiritual Leader and Inspirer 
and Redeemer. 

There is also a peril to the highest life 
of the church in measuring its spiritual 
possibilities in terms of an orthodox the- 
ology. I will not speak of the formalism 
which so easily besets ecclesiastical or- 
ganizations, but rather of the danger to 
creative spiritual leadership. In a con- 
ception of spiritual truth and of theology 
which absolves the minister from profound 



religious thinking upon the deepest con- 
cerns of life, there is an intellectual menace 
which must affect also the preacher's spir- 
itual vision and the character of his message. 
One cannot enter the deep original vision 
of the meaning of spiritual things without 
first thinking things through in terms of 
fundamental principles. We do not re- 
quire mere dispensers of second-hand 
visions. We do not need preachers who 
can demonstrate that God was in the 
thought and life of the past so much as we 
need those who can reveal a Uving God in 
the thought and Ufe of to-day. These ftin- 
damental things are matters of present 
insight, personally achieved. Theology 
needs to be moralized along the whole line 
of her doctrines, but at no point is the need 
so critical as in this matter of her angle of 
approach — the intellectual method — 
which shall control the religious interpreter. 
There is a mysterious but very precious 
doctrine of our Christian faith which sets 
forth in a positive way the very truth of 
which we have been speaking ; that is, the 
doctrine of the Holy Spirit. ''He will 
guide you into all truth." Theology must 


rely upon personal gtiidance, not mechani- 
cal control. Living gtiidance for living 
men, by the Spirit of the living God ! The 
sin against the Holy Ghost is the great sin 
in the Christian list. // is the distrust of 
present guidance that throws a man hack upon 
theological safety devices. Real security in 
spiritual interpretation comes only from the 
present, free operation of the Spirit of 
Truth. Living guidance for thought and 
life can never harden into a code or ortho- 
doxy. The only orthodoxy that is safe is 
this same Holy Spirit, eternally at work in 
the interpretations of men, eternally deep- 
ening otir vision of God and the meaning 
of life. The truth of the Holy Spirit, ef- 
fectually studied and practised, would ren- 
der unnecessary this earnest protest against 
a safe theology. But, alas, the tendency 
has been to measiH*e and standardize the 
very doctrine itself, in forgetfulness of the 
truth that God ''giveth not the Spirit by 

In conclusion, if there is a peril in a safe 
theology, what is the theological method 
which will best serve the church and its 
Lord ? It is the method which speaks out 


of a rich and profound spiritual experience, 
which has a sympathetic and intelligent 
understanding of the spiritual history of 
the past and of the spiritual life of to-day, 
and which trusts the accepted methods of 
sound thinking to guide its rational inter- 
pretations of spiritual reality. It is the 
method which discerns in the ethical and 
social forces of to-day the outworking pur- 
poses of a Living God, and stamps them 
with religious meaning. Christian theol- 
ogy is the type of theology which makes 
Christ's spirit the supreme test and dom- 
inating principle in setting a value on the 
facts of history and of life, as well as in 
interpreting their spiritual significance. In 
the frank employment of this method, the 
standardizing method of a ''safe theology'* 
would have no place; and without the 
method of rational and spiritual freedom, 
no orthodoxy is safe. 


The Truth about God; the Man 
Christ Jesus ^ 

"For there is one God, one Mediator also be- 
tween God and men, Himself man, Christ Jesus." 
— I Timothy, ii. 5. 

The supreme concern of all religion is the 
problem of the place and manner of the 
meeting of the htiman and the divine. The 
conception of a Mediator is a common one 
and takes many forms. History records 
some very crude conceptions of the relation 
between God and men, in pagan religions 
and savage races. It is awe-inspiring to re- 
flect that the whole human race is engaged 
on the one problem, united in this one 
quest. We are all engaged on the riddle of 
the universe: How shall we gain right 
conceptions of God and establish right 
relations with the deity ? 

In our Christian religion we bring all 
of our crowns to Jesus Christ, not simply 

^ Prepared and preached as a sermon to students. 


because He is the Founder of the Church ; 
but because by common consent we feel 
that the religious problem permanently 
centres in Him. He is our mediator be- 
tween God and men. The doctrine of the 
incarnation is a precious asset of the Chris- 
tian faith to be cherished for its ministry 
to human life. Incarnation is a foundation- 
stone of the Church. 

And so the Christological problem is 
always a primary problem of Christian 
thought. Church history witnesses on 
every hand to the recognition of this 
primacy. Our Christologies are historic at- 
tempts to answer the age-old question, 
" How does God come into our human life 
for the blessing of mankind ? " The history 
of Christian doctrine is characterized by a 
great variety of answers, some of them 
quite as grotesque and crude as the pagan 
attempts. We have literalisms and super- 
stitions and mechanical explanations of 
the meaning of Christ which repel us by 
their unspirituality ; and we have likewise 
many conceptions full of spiritual insight. 
Both friend and foe have done something 
to distort the picture of Christ ; for motives 


of unwise loyalty as well as motives of dis- 
loyalty have sometimes veiled His face. 
I know it is the fashion with a certain 
type of unthinking religious people to say : 
** We preach the Simple Gospel," or ** We 
preach just Jesus Christ, '* **We need no 
conception of how God and man meet in 
Him." Or, perhaps, we quote the loyal 
words of Richard Watson Gilder's "Song 
of a Heathen" : 

"If Jesus Christ is a man, — 
And only a man, — I say 
That of all mankind I cleave to Him, 
And to Him will I cleave alway. 

"If Jesus Christ is a God, — 
And the only God, — I swear 
I will follow Him through heaven and hell. 
The earth, the sea, and the air !" 

Now loyalty and poetry are to be culti- 
vated in our approach to this mightiest 
Figure of history; but He is the Lord of 
OUT thought, too, and neither loyalty nor 
poetry will suffer from trjring to clarify 
OMT conception of Him, as we draw near 
with our spiritual and rational eyes wide 
open. Not fanatical service, but reason- 


able service, is the highest ideal of religious 

We may take as our threefold outline 
Jesus' words, "I am the Way, the Truth, 
and the Life." 

I. Jesus is the "Way" for our human 
understanding only as we frankly and sym- 
pathetically know Him in terms of His 
human nature. All of our great historic 
creeds have testified to the glory of God 
in the face of Jesus Christ, affirming that 
we find Him to be **very God and very 
man." But His humanity has never been 
cancelled by His divinity. He was human. 
He was a man, sharing the experiences and 
the laws of life which condition us. In our 
eagerness to get what we call ** the revelation 
value" of Jesus, we sometimes discount 
this capital fact which is the condition 
and starting-point of all our interpre- 
tations of Him. In our loyalty and love 
we are prone to exalt Him by classifjdng 
Him as a prodigy introduced into a human 
race. But Jesus was a man tempted in all 
points like as we are, called to make choices 
and decisions, and to walk in the path of 
moral fidelity, as all good men must. He 


was not like some prince from a royal house- 
hold sent to an outlying province or a foreign 
country with a tacit understanding that 
the laws were to be suspended for His roy- 
alty and that deference must be shown Him. 
He was not a crown prince sent to a school 
with a tacit understanding that no one 
must excel His highness in intellectual 
standing or athletic prowess. He was first 
and simply a manly man, taking His place 
among men in a htmian world. He was 
first among many brethren — not an ac- 
credited son of a royal house among us 
on a diplomatic mission. If this subtle 
asstmiption of a royal son visiting our earth 
imder special auspices creeps into our 
thought of the man Christ Jesus, we have 
no longer to do with a human magnitude, 
with a human reality. 

Jesus was first of all a man. He met all 
the normal experiences of life as a man, 
with such conditions and helps as other 
men have — no other ! He met discour- 
agements, rebuffs, indignities, and failures 
as a man. His achievements were won as 
a man. As a man He had no mysterious 
stock of grace to draw on in emergencies 


to sustain Him above common men. That 
mysterious '' meat" that He had to eat, un- 
shared by His disciples, was the meat that 
lonely men must find if they will live on 
spiritual heights. His disciples did not 
know of it because they were not sustaining 
a spiritual existence that could be nourished 
by such spiritual food. I thank God be- 
cause I can believe that as a man He found 
spiritual food to enable Him to live above 

If I could climb to such spiritual heights 
as a man, I am confident that my Father 
and His would have appropriate spiritual 
food to sustain me. And the forces at 
His command, — the '' legions of angels '' — 
I do not know what it means ; but I believe 
that the same cosmic forces are at my dis- 
posal when I require them. I believe that 
Gospel picture tries to make us see Him as 
"very man,'' in terms of human realities. 
I believe that we wrong Christ and dwarf 
His spiritual stature by our petty buttress- 
ing of His life with ** divinity," which surely 
cuts the thread of moral reality, and thus 
insulates Him from us, when our salvation 
depends upon His being onie of us. 


. It is easy to see the motive which in the 
Gospel times and in later times has tried 
to accoimt for the sublimity of His life 
and character. Our natural scepticism says 
that such a life or such a deed is not human. 
Awed by the spiritual magnitudes with 
which we are dealing, we call in concep- 
tions of unhuman ** divine" aids, and im- 
htmian *' divine " relations, in order to justify 
the fact of Jesus. When you stand before 
such a marvellous person as Jesus, there 
are just two ways of offering satisfactory 
explanation to your own understanding. 
One is to draw limits to htmian nature, 
and say that all of the astonishing surplus- 
age that Jesus shows beyond this limit is 
the mysterious divine. Jesus is half man 
and half God ! 

The other is to admit that Jesus was 
"very man,'' but that he plumbed un- 
fathomed depths of our human nature, and 
in these depths enacted that union with 
God which enables us to read the revelation 
in His face. We reverence this man who 
as a man passed every man in spiritual 
achievement and stands at the head of all 
the sons of God. Shamed and rebuked 



and mastered, we look into the eyes of a 
Man, and not some prodigy. 

In this view Jesus was very man in order 
that the very Living God might have a 
perfect form for revealing Himself. Thus 
the divine was incarnated — the super- 
natural was manifested in the natural — 
and not revealed as some surplusage added 
on to humanity. 

I think we all have felt the unreality of 
an analysis of Jesus' consciousness which 
makes a line of cleavage between those 
things said and done as a man and those 
things said and done as God. Some of us 
have rebelled against the search for ex- 
cathedra utterances and those spoken in 
His private capacity. Surely the solution 
of the problem is to reverence the potential 
human powers and capacities which Jesus 
alone fulfilled and realized. The way to 
understand Jesus is to look into His face 
with the humility of men who have been 
content with small and dwarfed lives, and 
with the pride of men who belong to a 
common race with this Holy One who has 
forever mastered life and death. With 
the same tools with which we listlessly carve 


oiir htunan destiny, He wrought out a ma- 
jestic character which in every lineament 
and posture and act compels us to confess 
that in His Presence is the high place of 
htmian worship — that the Living God 
speaks to our race through Him. This 
man, Christ Jesus, is the One Mediator 
between God and men. 

I urge a second point in advancing our 
thought of this matter : 

II. Jesus is the ** Truth " about God only 
as we sympathetically fathom His human 

The facts involved in our great human 
creed about Jesus Christ do not change, 
however we treat the matter of His human 
reality. He is * * very God, ' ' says the ancient 
creed. And the heart of the church to-day 
echoes faithfully the same meaning, "He 
is very God." The fundamental problem 
of religion is indeed solved for the Christian 
in Jesus Christ. The meeting-place in 
history of the divine and the human is in 
that historic person, Jesus. Therefore we 
come to Him to gain our truest conceptions 
of God. We who have seen Him have seen 
the Father. 


But even in this confession of the tinion 
of God with the Man Christ Jesus, we are 
often confused in the interpretation of the 
fact. **In looking at Jesus we see God," 
is the general intent of our Creed. But just 
what specific things in this man constitute 
the revelation of the divine Father ? Shall 
we peer among his human qualities and dis- 
cover unhimian or superhuman qualities 
and powers, and isolate these from the 
himian and call these the revelation of 
Christ's deity? Or shall we faithfully 
follow the tnily himian nature until the 
magnitude of the spirit that is revealed 
in the himian makes us aware that we are 
face to face with God ? 

When we face the problem squarely and 
try to give shape and form to our thought 
of the divine, we must face one of two al- 
ternatives. We must either employ our own 
highest himian categories with the co- 
efficient of infinity, or else we must invent 
new categories of thought. This is true, 
even when we see God in the face of Jesus 
Christ. For when we affirm that God is 
a Christlike God, that previous question 
comes up insistently, ** Do we mean that 


very hirnian Christ, or do we mean some 
surplusage over the human that Jesus 
manifested? Is there a line of cleavage 
between his two natures, a double conscious- 
ness ; or do we speak unreservedly of this 
glorious, complete Person, Jesus, who shares 
all our human realities?" God revealed 
in Jesus Christ is our primal religious fact ; 
how shall we best approach and grasp such 
a spiritual magnitude ? 

I only want to urge that for the religious 
Gospel which we preach, the religious doc- 
trines which we teach, the path to reality 
and truth and power and authority over 
men, is by way of Jesus' htmian reality. 
Whatever heights of spiritual vision we may 
attain, I believe that those heights will be 
attained by making fair and earnest with this 
man who has such power to win the world 
when the world sympathetically knows Him 
as a man. On the other hand, much of the 
unreality of religious teaching is found in the 
fact that it does not grip the really himian 
because it is not read in the face of the 
himian Jesus. *'The glorious gospel of the 
blessed God which is committed to our 
trust" is a Gospel of God manifested in 


htunan life. Jesus is not a God-Man, with 
the terms joined by a hyphen ; He is very 
man with the very God dwelling in Him and 
speaking authoritatively through Him. 

Somewhere in his sermons, that prince 
of preachers, Phillips Brooks, uses a figure 
of speech which illustrates our habit of 
thought in dealing with Jesus Christ. He 
says we gather up all the splendid and 
glorious things about Christ that give Him 
distinction and glory among men, and fasten 
them on to Jesus as men might tie flowers 
on to a post, — for we do not see that all 
this spiritual blossoming and fruitage roots 
in and grows out of the life that throbs in 
this Man, Christ Jesus. I think our loyal 
eagerness to exalt Jesus sometimes sees the 
spiritual magnitudes, the divine realities 
of Jesus' life as things tied on to His human 
life, — and not as fruitage of the human. 
Is the "divinity of Christ" a superadded 
thing ; or the very unveiling of the majesty 
of God in the one place in history where the 
beauty of holiness and the perfection of 
love in the himian life could reveal the 
Living God dwelling in the flesh, — i.e. 
in the form of human life and speech ? Is 


the revelation of God related or unrelated 
to this most glorious fruitage of our spir- 
itual world? Is the divinity of Christ a 
purely spiritual doctrine, or partly magical ? 
More than once Jesus Himself tried to 
help men to see that loving God and loving 
men could not be treated in two categories 
as two acts. More than once He tried to 
make men know that if they could not dis- 
cover God through the human, they would 
miss the vision of the divine. * * He that doth 
not love his brother whom he hath seen, 
how can he love God whom he hath not 
seen ? " The two great commandments are 
one commandment. We are not to strive 
to think God and love God by some sheer 
act of transcendent faith that lifts us out 
of the htmian. We are not to strive to 
please God in some ceremonial act of wor- 
ship which is not a moral act. We are not 
to picture a throne where clouds of glory 
eternally gather to hide the majesty of a 
face upon which no human eye can look 
and live. We are to put aside these arti- 
ficial, Oriental symbols of glory, and see 
the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 
The Man, Christ Jesus, is the fulfilment of 


all that inadequate symbolism. We are 
to read the character and purpose and 
presence of God in the life of the Son of 
Man. And if looking at the vision of the 
divine incarnated in humanity reveals to 
the inner eye of the soul a glimpse of the 
Living God tmspeakable, and dwelling in 
unutterable glory, we will worship the 
mystery of a holiness that no human life 
and no himian world can wholly contain. 
But the path to such a vision is surely 
through the human. The ftmdamental 
truth of the incarnation is that we reach 
divinity through himianity. We come to 
the Father through Jesus. No man cometh 
to the Father but by Him. We cannot 
come to the conception of the Christian's 
God but by Him. We know God and 
think God, not by inventing new cate- 
gories, but rather by seeing new depths of 
meaning in our himian modes of life and 

By way of justification of this principle of 
incarnation, I may cite some words of 
Jesus which must bring conviction to the 
man who is not looking too intently into 
the heavens to find God. I refer to the 


occasion when two of his own disciples were 
quarrelling over preferment and honour in a 
coming Kingdom above the clouds. Jesus 
at a stroke showed the poverty of that 
shabby glory where men dazzle the popu- 
lace by sitting on thrones at the right or 
left of the king. He called these dreamers 
tmto Him and said unto them : ** Ye know 
that they which are accounted to rule over 
the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; 
and their great ones exercise authority upon 
them. But so shall it not be among you : 
but whosoever will be great among you shall 
be your minister ; and whosoever of you will 
be the chiefest shall be servant of all. For 
even the Son of Man came not to be min- 
istered tmto, but to minister, and to give 
his life a ransom for many." When we 
remember that Jesus constantly taught 
that they who saw Him saw the Father, it 
is impossible to resist the conclusion that 
God is Christlike. Our best thought of 
God is of a Coworking God, a God who 
shares, a God who serves. Jesus loved us, 
and gave Himself in ministry for us. God 
is like that, says Jesus. Nay, it is God who 
thus divinely gives Himself for us in the 


life of Jesus, is the intent of our creeds. 
The symbolism of the Cross points straight 
to a sympathetic y suffering God whose purposes 
are hound up with ours and whose life is 
poured out in the world's struggle. There is 
grotind for infinite hope for every man in 
that conception of God. 

Up to a certain point we have read the 
lesson of Jesus' incarnation and have re- 
joiced in a Christlike God of love. But 
instead of humanizing our thought of God, 
we have invented some new categories of 
thought in order to keep God great. In- 
stead of deepening our own moral meanings, 
and thus finding vehicles for our thought of 
the divine, we have invented some wonder- 
ful conceptions of the necessities of the 
divine life, and then have administered to 
these necessities by some marvellous the- 
ories of atonement and the like. 

"If our love were but more simple, 
We would take Him at his word." 

When we see God in terms of the true hu- 
manity of Jesus, and when we interpret 
God in Christ only in terms of our own 
moral realities, — our love and sympathy 


and self-sacrifice, — then some very respec- 
table theology will float away as useless, 
and some very deep religion will flow in to 
show us how profound and sweet and 
strong the current of spiritual life is. 

"A sound theology is simply the facts 
of our personal life writ large." A the- 
ology is simply a way of conceiving God 
and His relationship to the world. And 
those conceptions will inevitably be drawn 
from experience, if they are to have reality 
and power for us. How important, then, 
that our experience shall comprehend pro- 
f otmdly and sympathetically — yes, vicari- 
ously and vitally — the experience and 
life of that Man who was and is ** human- 
ity's best man." How important it is 
that the experience of a theological student 
shall ring true, and run deep, and motmt 
high, that he may sympathetically tm- 
derstand the Man, Christ Jesus, and thus 
in his own experience win conceptions 
which are the very condition of knowing 
God. The intellectual tests of our class- 
room may not truly test our knowledge of 
God ; in the last analysis it can only be re- 
vealed by a spiritual test that tries men's 


hearts. If Jesus incarnated the very God 
by deepening the experiences of the human, 
by sounding the unplumbed depths of 
human realities, by raising human meanings 
to their highest power ; must I not come to 
Christ by the incarnation principle, and 
find God in Christ by the vital principle of 
incarnation? It is infinitely harder than 
the shallow intellectual method of learning 
a theology in the schools ; of defending a 
doctrine of incarnation ! It means that 
I must push to the bottom of spiritual 
experience, in order to know the language 
of spiritual meanings. The cost of incar- 
nation is great; but the reward is life's 
supreme reward, — the knowledge and com- 
panionship of the Most High. Having 
fellowship with God through the Lord 
Jesus Christ is a description of this supreme 
htmian reality. 

If Jesus is the truth about God, we must 
sympathetically fathom Jesus' htmian na- 
ture to know God. We must not look for 
surplusage, for fiowers tied on, for prodigies. 
We must follow Jesus into the awful 
depths of moral meanings and up to the 
awful heights of spiritual achievement that 


lie open to the human. We must drink His 
cup. *'Who among the mighty can be 
likened tmto Him ? " Not one moral hero 
of the race can compare with Him in moral 
sublimity. He stands alone as the Re- 
vealer of God, saying: *'I and the Father 
are one. He that hath seen me, hath seen 
the Father." If we have sympathetically 
fathomed this astonishing Man, we will 
think God and understand God in terms 
of these overflowing human meanings which 
break our hearts by their tenderness and 
command our loyalty by their truth. God 
is love — a himian word ! We must in- 
terpret every doctrine of Creation, of Re- 
demption, of Fatherhood, of Sovereignty, 
of Service, in terms of incarnate love. 
Jesus is the Living Truth about God. 

III. I must attend briefly to a third 
phase of the religious problem. Jesus is the 
''Life" for our humanity only as we see our 
himian life in Him. Religion, our great 
human fact, must be redefined in terms 
of the humanity of Jesus Christ. I am 
thinking now of the great problem of bring- 
ing the divine life, the supernatural power, 
to the service of the human. I am thinking 


of the practical problem of redeeming all 
this mass of teeming life in otir human 
world, by linking it in conscious union 
with the divine. The supreme problem of 
religion is not that of gaining right intellec- 
tual conceptions of our God nor of the Media- 
tor between God and men ; but of getting 
a dynamic saving relation established be- 
tween the divine and the human. To bring 
the consciousness and the presence and the 
power of the divine into human life and 
work, — this is the ultimate religious prob- 
lem. And the Man, Christ Jesus, is the 
solution of this problem. 

Note what a vast problem it is that con- 
fronts the Christian Church. Temporal 
and secular interests are defeating the 
spiritual to an appalling extent. Our 
characteristic colossal sins are symptomatic 
of the pace at which we live. Nerves, 
worry, insanity, suicide ; unrestrained am- 
bition, issuing in lust and moral flabbiness 
in social relations, and in grinding greed 
and graft and imholy risks and alliances 
in the political and economic world. "Sin- 
ning by syndicate" is Professor Ross' strik- 
ing phrase to express the sinister ways in 


which our sins are organized into the com- 
plex life of society. These, and all the 
subtle forms of sin that infest life and tempt 
good men's souls in every age ! Our sins 
are marring our spiritual life and menacing 
the very foundations of our civilization. 
These destroying facts tmdermining the 
spiritual life of our day constitute the prob- 
lem of the church. 

And the preaching of living religion is 
the only cure for it. The Living God is 
the only Saviour mighty enough to save 
us from the ruinous power of sin. The 
people must see God, and they must see 
Him in the life of to-day. It is not enough 
that they should be taught of a transcen- 
dent holy being to be worshipped. We 
must preach the truth of the incarnation. 
We must make the people see all of this 
life '4n God." We must preach the in- 
carnate God. We must preach the One 
God, and the one mediator between God 
and men, Himself Man, Christ Jesus. Our 
characteristic human problems need God, 
but they need Him translated into terms 
of humanity. The himian form and himian 
flesh and himian work and himian service 


and human love, — these must all be re- 
demptive agencies, through which the voice 
of God shall speak to men. The preaching 
of the htmian Jesus, with flesh and bone 
and nerve; with temptations and aspira- 
tions and insults ; with htmger and weari- 
ness and anguish; an outcast, spit upon, 
killed by the people whom He loved and 
served, — and yet the incarnation of the 
One God ! Despised and rejected of men ! 
It is a himian picture which somehow ex- 
presses all the groans and crying and 
speechless woe of the human heart. And 
it was in the form of this Suffering Servant 
of humanity that the living, loving God 
came in and dwelt in our needy world. 
It was that Man, Christ Jesus, in whom 
God dwelt in all fulness. And He alone — 
by such a life — has brought the truth of 
God and his kingdom home to human 
hearts. We thirst for the eternal; but 
the path to the eternal lies through the 
doing of the temporal. It is by incarna- 
tion, by dwelling in the suffering flesh, 
that God comes home to the experiences 
and consciousness of men. The greed and 
the lust and the selfishness and the forms of 


sin that hurt and destroy the life of otir 
day need to see God in the flesh — need 
to know that He dwells here, and not on 

Whether otir eyes are fixed upon the mis- 
sionary problem, the crying social evils 
of our day, the myriad forms of brutality 
and selfishness that devour widow's houses 
and destroy little children, — spiritual re- 
ligion is the only salvation. And spiritual 
religion can only grow out of the revelation 
of God in the human, the Helper of the 
helpless, the Lover and Saviour of the neg- 
lected and the outcast. And the Man, 
Christ Jesus, is the revelation of the 
saving Life of God. 

Jesus is the Life; the Life of God. 
When we learn what Jesus meant, I think 
that the pagan conception of a heaven 
where God dwells apart will disappear. 
God's home is in our homes, in hearts and 
lives that afford Him fellowship, in work that 
affords Him cooperation. I do not think 
that we ought to teach that incarnation 
is divine ** humiliation." It is divine glory, 
God's opportunity. God did not "empty 
Himself"; He glorified Himself in Jesus. 


The incarnation was not a defeat ; it was 
the supremely successftil outworking of 
God's eternal purpose. The divine defeat, 
the real humiliation, is in these hearts of 
ours that will not open for His indwelling. 
His humiliation is that the life of our htunan 
world is still so largely oblivious to His 
purposes of love and closed to His appeal. 
The lament of Jesus rings in our ears yet : 
''And ye would not come tmto Me that ye 
might have life !" 

In the practical sense, then, of making the 
world religious, I feel that this must be the 
dominant note ; to show people that true 
religion takes the normal forms of himian 
life. And to do this we must remove that 
slander which largely holds the thinking of 
the people, that the human is alien to the 
divine and that by a prodigy or a miracle or 
a humiliation God comes into our human 
world. That heresy, preserved in some of 
our hymns and doctrines, prejudices our 
cause. Christ Jesus is forever the refuta- 
tion of that imtruth, as He is forever the 
supreme revelation and the supreme in- 
carnation of the Living God dwelling with 
us. We must preach Jesus, not chiefly 


as the exception, but as the perfection. 
We must not call people out of the world to 
give them a vision of God, but show them 
God at work in their work. They must not 
look for unhuman lineaments in the face 
of Jesus, but learn to love His human face, 
and in loving Him see God in His eyes. 

Says one teacher effectively, '' If we would 
make humanity Christian, we must keep 
Christianity human." And as I think of 
the problem of Christianizing all of the 
splendid complex life of to-day ; the prob- 
lem of bringing to it the conviction of the 
Living God and teaching people obedience 
to His loving purposes; the problem of 
bringing a dynamic, the power of salvation 
to people, I feel that the condition of meet- 
ing this Herculean task is to have the people 
learn God in the Man, Christ Jesus. They 
must follow the himian Jesus until in the 
depths of moral experience — every man 
for himself — there is formed that Petrine 
conviction and confession: '*This is the 
Christ, the Son of the Living God ! " And 
with this regenerating conviction working 
in our lives, we are to bring every district 
of himian life and activity into obedience 


to the heavenly vision. When redemption 
is complete, himian life will be human life 
still, throbbing on with all of its manifold 
interests and social developments. Yet 
it will be a new earth wherein dwelleth 
righteousness, a glorified race regenerated 
by love. The power of this regeneration 
will be the Son of Man with marred face 
and broken body, mediating God to every- 
one who will hear His voice and open the 
door to His incoming. 

Redemptive religion, then, is the solu- 
tion of the practical problem that con- 
fronts us. God is the Redeemer. We 
must preach the Living God. We must 
not preach Him as '*Lord of all being, 
throned afar,'' but as the Power at work 
in our human world. Robert Browning 
has caught and crystallized into speech 
this cry of the soul for God wearing human 

"'Tis the weakness in strength, that I cry few ! my 

flesh, that I seek 
In the Godhead 1 I seek and I find it. O Saul, 

it shall be 
A Face like my face that receives thee ; a Man 

like to me, 


Thou shalt love and be loved by, forever: a 

Hand like this hand 
Shall throw open the gates of new life to thee ! 

See the Christ stand!" 

A human hand, a htiman face, a human 
life, a htiman Mediator ! Incarnation is 
not an expedient, not a device. It is the 
unveiling of the permanent truth that the 
love of God can only be revealed to us in 
human life and language; and that the 
completest vision of the divine must be 
expressed in the completest himian. Atone- 
ment is not a scheme ; it is the divine char- 
acter expressed in action. Christ is our 
Vision of God. Obedience to this heavenly 
vision means that you and I, disciples, 
can transform secularism into religion, 
sin into holiness, only in the measure 
that we incarnate God in life, thus mak- 
ing people aware of the Coworking God in 
our common world. 


(A brief list of men and books that have made for progress in 
religious interpretation.) 

Allen, A. V. G., "The Continuity of Christian Thought," 

"Freedom in the Church." 
Barton, G. A., "The Heart of the Christian Message." 
Bergson, Henri, "Creative Evolution." 
BowNE, B. P., "Theory of Thought and Knowledge," 

"Personalism," "The Immanence of God," "The 

Essence of Religion," "Studies in Christianity." 
Brown, W. A., "The Essence of Christianity." 
Burton, M. L., "Out Intellectual Attitude in an Age of 

BusHNELL, H., "Forgiveness and Law," "God in Christ," 

Case, S. J., "The Historicity of Jesus." 
Churchill, Winston, "The Inside of the Cup." 
Clarke, W. N., "Sixty Years with the Bible," "The 

Ideal of Jesus." 
Clarke, J. F., "The Christian Doctrine of Prayer," "Or- 
thodoxy : its Truth and Error." 
CoE, G. A., " Education in Religion and Morals." 
Cunningham, W., "Christianity and Social Questions." 
EucKEN, Rudolf, "Christianity and the New Idealism," 

" The Truth of ReHgion," " Can we still be Christian ? " 
Faunce, W. H. p., "What does Christianity Mean?" 
Ferris, G. H., " The Formation of the New Testament." 
Foster, G. B., "The Finality of the Christian Religion," 

"The Function of Religion." 
Garvie, A. E., "The Christian Certainty and the Modem 




Gordon, G. A., "Ultimate Conceptions of Faith," "Re- 
ligion and Miracle." 

Hall, C. C, "Christ and the Eastern Soul," "Christ 
and the Human Race," "Christian Experience and 
Theological Science," "The Universal Elements of 
the Christian Religion." 

Harnack, a., "History of Dogma," "What is Chris- 

Herrmann, W., "Communion with God," "Faith and 

Hnx, R. A. P., "The Interregnum." 

Hocking, W. E., "The Meaning of God in Human 

HoFFDiNG, H., "The Philosophy of Religion." 

HoRTON, R. F., "My BeHef." 

Hume, R. A., "Missions from the Modem View." 

Hyde, W. De W., "Outlines of Social Theology," "Sin 
and its Forgiveness." 

James, Wm., "Varieties of Religious Experience." 

Johnson, F. H., "God in Evolution." 

Jones, R. M., "Social Law in the Spiritual Worid," "The 
Double Search." 

King, H. C, "Rational Living," "Reconstruction in 
Theology," "Theology and the Social Consciousness," 
"The Laws of Friendship." 

Ladd, G. T., "Philosophy of Religion." 

La Touche, E. D., "Christian Certitude." 

LoiSY, A., "The Gospel and the Church." 

McCoNNELL, F. J., "Religious Certainty," "The Diviner 

McGiFFERT, A. C, "The Apostolic Age." 

Mains, G. P., "Modem Thought and Traditional Faith." 

Mathews, Shailer, "The Gospel and the Modem 
Man," "The Church and the Changing Order." 


Maurice, P. D., "The Doctrine of Sacrifice." 

MooRB, E. C, "The New Testament in the Christian 

Nash, H. S., "Ethics and Revelation," "Genesis of the 

Social Conscience." 
PsABODY, P. G., "Jesus Christ and the Christian Charac- 
ter," "Jesus Christ and the Social Question." 
Pfleiderer, O., "Evolution and Theology." 
Pratt, J. B., "The Psychology of Religious Belief." 
Rauschenbusch, W., "Christianizing the Social Order," 

"Christianity and the Social Crisis." 
Rogers, A. K., "The Religious Conception of the World." 
Rowland, Eleanor H., "The Right to Believe." 
Sabatier, a., "Religions of Authority and the Life of the 

ScHLEiERMACHER, Pried., "The Christian Paith." 
Sheldon, H. C, "History of the Christian Church," 

"Unbelief in the Nineteenth Century." 
Smith, G. B., "Social Idealism and the Changing 

Stevens, G. B., "The Christian Doctrine of Salvation." 
TiELB, C. P., "Elements of the Science of Religion." 
Troeltsch, Ernst, "Protestantism and Progress." 
Warschauer, J., "The New Evangel," "Jesus: Seven 

White, A. D., "Warfare of Science and Theology." 
White, Douglas, "Forgiveness and Suffering." 

Beecher's Sermons. 
Brooks' Sermons. 
Channing's Sermons. 
Robertson's Sermons. 

Browning's Poems. 
Whittier's Poems. 

npHE following pages contain advertisements of a 
few of the Macmillan books on kindred subjedb. 


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Can We Still be Christians? 

By RUDOLF EUCKEN, Ph.D. (University of Jena) 
Nobel Prizeman, 1908. The Views of the Learned German Philosopher 

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The Religion of Japan 

President of Doshisha University, Kyoto 

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(Chicago Theological Seminary) 

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The Bible for Home and School 

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